A little over 3 million: that is the number of signatures the change.org petition calling for the NBA to change its logo to that of the recently deceased star, Kobe Bryant, gained in just five days.
That is a significant number. A change like that would be one that has yet to be seen from one of the four major sports leagues.
The current logo depicts Jerry West, a Basketball Hall of Famer and Laker legend, much like late Bryant. West said on The Jump, an ESPN basketball talk show, “If they would want to change it, I wish they would. In many ways, I wish they would.” West is also on the record saying he believes the next person to grace the logo should be Michael Jordan.
Many who consider Jordan the greatest player of all time, or GOAT, within the NBA might be at a crossroads here. I don’t think we should pass up the GOAT for the Mamba.
A leaguewide retirement of the number 24, the one Bryant wore on his jersey, is appropriate.
On Jan. 26, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a tweet that no Maverick would wear the number 24 again, retiring it out of respect for Bryant.
It’s unprecedented for a team to retire the number of someone who had never played for them.
The NBA should take note and follow suit, issuing a leaguewide mandate. The only other leaguewide retirements were in Major League Baseball, which retired the number 42 for Jackie Robinson, and the National Hockey League, which retired the number 99 for Wayne Gretzky.
Having Bryant join that elite company seems only fitting.
Robinson transcended baseball. Gretzky transcended hockey. And Bryant transcended basketball; 24 should become just as iconic as 42 and 99.
Bryant was a master at connecting with anyone he encountered. His humanitarian efforts speak for themselves. His quotes are the epitome of motivation. Coaches, teachers, companies, and pastors have all used his words as inspiration.
Dan Wetzel, a national sports columnist for Yahoo Sports, said on Jan. 28 the NBA will not change the logo to Kobe Bryant. “Sources familiar with the league’s thinking said there is no interest in having an individual player as its logo because there are so many who have been instrumental in the growth of the game and the NBA. Generic is better.”
This is a smart collective response from the association on what is such a sensitive issue for many players and fans alike. Bryant was more than a basketball player. He was superhuman.
Still, good on the NBA for not making the rash decision and bypassing other greats who are equally or more deserving. This matter should be carried out with the utmost care.
When I read Bryant died at 41 in a helicopter crash, my first thought was about baseball player Roberto Clemente. Both tragically died in aviation accidents. Both were icons of their games. Both were staunch humanitarians. Their lives were eerily similar.
The MLB failed Clemente: players can still wear number 21.
The NBA has an opportunity to send an important and unprecedented message to the sports world. It should mandate a leaguewide retirement of the number 24. It should make his number live forever, recognizing what Bryant meant not only to the growth and development of the league but to the millions who looked up to him as that superhuman.
The NBA knows it has just endured a monumental loss. It should give Bryant the ultimate tribute. Retiring his number should be a no-brainer.
Perhaps the association is just being cautious in its handling of this situation. Nevertheless, the number 24 should either be retired by the league or by every team individually as the ultimate tribute to a lost icon of a game.