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No. 24 is No. 1

Okay, now it makes sense. We've been racking our brains for almost eight months trying to figure out why Kobe Bryant switched jerseys from No. 8 to No. 24. There was speculation over the throwback KB8 shoe that Adidas was about to release, which infuriated Bryant, now a Nike endorser. There were rumors that he wanted his jersey to form a 24/7 combo with Lamar Odom, as in giving it to teams 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was the stuff about him being three times better than ever, or that he was one up on Michael Jordan (23+1). Before the season, Kobe explained that after 10 years in the league, it was time for a change and that he made the switch because 24 was the first number that he wore in high school. That may have been true - heck, they all could've - but if you want to know the real reason for the change, this is it: Like Ludacris, he was coming for that No. 1 spot!

Kobe is arguably the most hated player in the NBA, but if he ever needed proof that people still love him -- even after the sexual assault allegations and the unflattery dismissal of Shaquille O'Neal from the Lakers (not to mention Kobe ratting out Shaq to the police) - he needs to look no further than the latest list of of the NBA's most popular jersey sales. Bryant bumped Dwyane Wade's almost two-year reign and regained the top spot he once held during the 2002-03 season. The results are based on sales at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue in New York and on NBAstore.com. Here's the complete list:

TOP 15 PLAYERS
1. KOBE BRYANT - LOS ANGELES LAKERS
2. DWYANE WADE - MIAMI HEAT
3. LEBRON JAMES - CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
4. ALLEN IVERSON - DENVER NUGGETS
5. CARMELO ANTHONY - DENVER NUGGETS
6. STEVE NASH - PHOENIX SUNS
7. VINCE CARTER - NEW JERSEY NETS
8. GILBERT ARENAS - WASHINGTON WIZARDS
9. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL - MIAMI HEAT
10. STEPHON MARBURY - NEW YORK KNICKS
11. DIRK NOWITZKI - DALLAS MAVERICKS
12. TRACY MCGRADY - HOUSTON ROCKETS
13. PAUL PIERCE - BOSTON CELTICS
14. CHRIS PAUL - NEW ORLEANS/OK CITY HORNETS
15. TIM DUNCAN - SAN ANTONIO SPURS

See, Gilbert has finally cracked the top 10? Imagine how many more No. 0s would sell if he didn't throw them away after games.

But back to Kobe. Despite his rep, Kobe is still the best player in the game - so what that Steve Nash has a two-to-none advantage in most valuable player trophies - and he certainly is must-see television with a bad knee or not. Things are going quite well for him right now. He's already (sort of) squashed the beef with Shaq. Phil Jackson is back coaching him (and the Lakes are doing quite well, I might add). And, he is slowly - very slowly - shredding the selfish label that dogged him for his first decade in the league, by becoming more of a ball-sharing leader. He can still get a bit ball-hoggy (not a word, I know), but he is at least trying to follow Phil's orders.

For almost two seasons, Mr. 81 has had to hear about how Wade, LeBron James and pre-punch Carmelo Anthony have trumped him popularity, with support for the argument coming in the form of Bryant's declining jersey sales. Really, all the love for Wade and James really proved was that everybody just wanted something new. I'm not sure how far Kobe really had to climb. Everybody already owned his No. 8 jersey and by the way, that joint had faded from purple to fuchsia. Kids needed something different. Hello No. 24!

Now the question is: How long will Kobe hold on to No. 1?

By Michael Lee  |  January 10, 2007; 6:14 PM ET
 
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Next: Winning the right way

Comments

Anyone know where to watch tonight's game on the Internet?

Posted by: rurikbird | January 10, 2007 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Still don't like that he tries so hard to be MJ. why can't he get a personality of his own?

Posted by: Victor | January 10, 2007 8:54 PM | Report abuse

When does Nocioni become a free agent? If we had him instead of Antwan we'd be even sicker.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 10, 2007 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Quality shots!!!!!!

"Despite his rep, Kobe is still the best player in the game"

I'd take Dirk, Nash, and Wade over Kobe right now Mike, sorry. Just because he sells the most shirts doesn't mean he's the best player, that's just opinion. And he's a cry baby to boot. I don't like Lebron at all but I'd still take him over Kobe as well.

Where's Ivan at? Mike's rep is going down in flames like Kobe's with all of this nonsense. ;)

First Rasheed love, then Kobe love. What gives with that?

"Screw Rasheed Wallace in the ear with a sandpaper covered stick."

Lol, BK! I think Kobe may have already tried to do that. ;)

Good game by the Wiz tonight. I was actually happy to have Etan back, he played pretty well despite being out for a month.

This is my take on Hayes: when they run actual plays to him(screens ect.) and he sets his feet, he makes good shot attempts. They don't always go in, but yeah to his merit he's still finding his timing.

When Hayes has his back to the basket he does those HORRID turn around jumpers, that either miss the rim completely or brick off the backboard.

This is my final take on the any trades for the Wiz: don't make any, go with what you have UNLESS it's something that EG can't pass up.

I think Wise wrote this same thing a few weeks back. But after tonight, and the Wiz MUST get home court advantage to go anywhere, I think they can do some damage. When Etan was first hurt they weren't playing like they are now.

If they start slumping and lose home court then all bets are off.

They really play well at home.

I think they win a close one on Friday against NO, lose on Saturday against the Spurs. A win against the Spurs would be really impressive, but on the road on the second night of a back to backer is hard.

Please go vote for all the Wizards for the 2007 NBA All Star game NOW at:

http://www.nba.com/allstar2007/asb/eng/ballot.html?from=sweeps

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | January 10, 2007 10:49 PM | Report abuse

"Anyone know where to watch tonight's game on the Internet?"

NBA.com is all I know, but you have to subscribe. Kinda sucks. :(

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | January 10, 2007 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Ray, what are you talking about? My rep is going down in flames? Because I said Kobe is the best player in the L? I didn't say Smush Parker, I said Kobe. And, I can find a handful of scouts, league executives and players to support me on that. You mean to tell me that there are three players in the league better than Kobe Bryant? That's insane. I'm sorry. That dude has been first-team all-NBA just about every year in his career. He is really hated, but you cannot discredit his game. His defense is a little off this season, but really, what are his other flaws right now? I mean, beside not showing Gil love for that 60 points.

Posted by: Michael Lee | January 10, 2007 11:22 PM | Report abuse

As much as I hate his arrogance and as much as I hope Gil lights him up again when he comes here, he's the closest to MJ (offensively and defensively) for the number of years he has played. None of the other pretenders play one lick of defense and get Kobe on the Olympic team and there will be no more bronze medals.

Posted by: PTP23 | January 10, 2007 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Michael Lee, you certainly can make an argument for it, but it's not that clear cut! Wade won an NBA title with a not as good version of Shaq so he should be considered better. Nash improves other players around him more than any other player in the league. He has to be considered. Dirk is the hardest matchup in the league and has decided to rebound and play some D now. He has to be considered. (Lebron although impressive for his age, I believe, has always been a little over-hyped)

It's not like Kobe is MJ although he wishes he was. MJ won 6 titles with not very good centers and Scottie Pippen. Kobe needs to prove he can do something on his own in the playoffs without the MDPE and he has yet to do it. I might want those other players on my team before Kobe. Plus, you get less selfish attitude.

You think Jordan would have ever let Arenas score 60 on him. NO WAY!

Posted by: Rob P | January 11, 2007 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Ray, let's stop comparing Kobe to Jordan. He's not Jordan. I never said he was. Jordan is on another planet, okay? I just said Kobe is the best in the game right now. I'm entitled to that opinion, which is a completely credible one. I'm not necessarily a fan of Kobe's. I just respect his game. Get back to me when one of those so-called best players on your list makes an all-defensive squad and we'll talk. I'm not going to waste my time discrediting those other guys because it's not productive. But I'm going to stick to my guns here. Those other guys you mentioned are hot right now, but Kobe's been doing this for a long time. You cannot take that away from him.

Posted by: Michael Lee | January 11, 2007 12:40 AM | Report abuse

My bad, Ray. That last comment was meant for Rob P, not you.

Posted by: Michael Lee | January 11, 2007 1:30 AM | Report abuse

I hear the Sixers are about to drop Chris Webber.

Any chance the Wizards will make a move for him when he clears waivers? Would adding him make sense?

Posted by: JP | January 11, 2007 2:25 AM | Report abuse

Tonight's game proved 2 important points:

1. Our bench can contribute.
2. We can beat a good team without Gilbert getting 35 points. At least at home.

Very very encouraging. I agree with Ray though. Our best bet in the playoffs is home-court advantage.

Posted by: rurikbird | January 11, 2007 3:05 AM | Report abuse

M Lee,

Unless you are writing from LA you should get some sleep :)
I think Ray was referring to your lack of love for the Wiz over Bulls.

I'm fine with you changing it up and giving us some skinny from around the league, LA cracks me up, I saw a board where LA fans were suggesting kwame was the better part of the trade... lol.

Lets see, "all-star caliber caron" vs "while you were sleeping kwame." I love how fast caron gets after his own shots, he keeps jumping and gets up there for the put backs. Blatche needs to keep watching caron, he had a nice put back slam tonight.

Quiet night for GA, I think these Bulls would be an interesting series, they seem to bother us on D, but I think they are too streaky on O to keep up with the wiz the way we are playing right now.

Posted by: greg | January 11, 2007 3:09 AM | Report abuse

Kobe, the best? I think he's certainly up there with all the others M. Lee mentioned. The Lakers are crippled with injuries right now, and still winning, because of Kobe. He scares me more than any other player in the league.

On the Bulls' game -- I thought Etan's presence was big. He played effectively in his limited minutes, but more importantly, we didn't have to go small when Brendan was out. I also liked the lineup in the 2nd half with Haywood at 5, Andray at 4 and Antawn at 3. Big lineup, and it worked. I'd really like to see Antawn coming off the bench next year, with Blatche starting at the 4. That kid is really getting after it.

I also thought this was Jarvis' best game of the year. Aggressive defensively, and took mostly good shots, making half. Maybe he'll reward Eddie's patience.

Posted by: Keithinator | January 11, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

You know who scares me the most? Earl Boykins... he's the anti-wizard!

Posted by: greg | January 11, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

KB may have the top selling jersey and he may be the best in the NBA at present, but I always will dislike him for airing Shaq's dirty laundry when he was in trouble over that rape allegation.

When he gets healthy, Shaq needs to lay Kobe out with a forearm the next time they play and he tries to drive the lane.

Kobe = pendejo.

'Nuff said.

Posted by: iceberg | January 11, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Hinrich is a flat-out hatchet-man. It's no wonder Gil didn't go off. Next time we play the Bulls we need to draw up some pick-and-rolls that are just designed to send Hinrich into Caron's elbow or something.

Ask D-Wade how much respect he has for the guy...

Posted by: Gack | January 11, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Gack,

Not only Hinrich, but Nocioni. He should've been tossed for that block he threw on Daniels. I'm surprised AD didn't retaliate. That should never be allowed to happen.

Posted by: Keithinator | January 11, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Isn't this a Wizards blog? Kobe plays approximately 3,000 miles away from here, I couldn't possible care less about him.

EJ is an ok coach and all, but if we had Scott Skiles as our coach we would be winning 55-60 games a year. He is the real deal.

Posted by: Zonker | January 11, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Keith's point above about using Haywood, Blatche and Jamison at the same time. But they were outscored by 8 during their shift together. Hopefully next time will be more effective.

Posted by: John | January 11, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

"In the 20 years that I've been in the league, I've seen that shooting motion hundreds of times from guys trying to get that call, and I've never seen it awarded before," Skiles said. "I didn't get an explanation."

Well, because they always foul first and the motion starts after the whistle. Skile yelled for Hinrich to foul and everybody in the arena heard it, so Arenas started his motion before he fouled.

Posted by: Zonker | January 11, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I got home late and missed the first Q and 1/2, and I turned on my tv about halfway through 2nd Q and I saw Haywood, Blatche, Jamison, Hayes and Gil on the floor! Are you kidding me!! I was so happy I thought it was my birthday!! Haywood dunked and Dray blocked a shot and Jamison grabbed a board and Hayes dropped a long J! I almost crapped my pants!!!!

As far as the best in the game debate, I gotta agree with Ray on this Mike. I was a Laker fan back when I was like 10 and they had Kareem and Magic, although my favorite player was actually Dr. J, but I was a small kid and I didn't know any better Mike, but you a grown man and you gotta wake up from that Hollywood dream!! You been hypnotized by those bright lights and celebrity glitz and you gone delirious!! Why don't you go get a David Hasselhoff autograph and watch a musical!

There is no question that Nash is the top dog in the game right now. And if I was starting a team, seriously I'd take Gil over Kobe, if only cause he's younger, and cause SGs are dime a dozen and Gil is the #2 point in the Association behind Nash. I'd also probably take LeBron over Kobe at this point, but I do agree Kobe is still better than Wade.

No doubt Ray, we gotta get that home court for the playoffs!!!

Posted by: Darnell | January 11, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse


Zonker, I agree that Skiles is a great coach. He gets a ton of emotion and effort out of his players.

At the same time, I don't think he'd be a good fit for this Wizards team. I have a hard time believing that he'd mesh well with Gilbert and Antawn. One of EJ's strengths, in my opinion, is that he seems to be good at managing Agent Zero. I don't know that Gilbert would respond positively to the tough love of Skiles. (I don't mean to imply anything negative at all about any of these individuals - I'm just suggesting that they wouldn't be a good fit together.)

Posted by: AC | January 11, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

gack you are so right, If this was hockey we would have sent Brashear in to take care of Hinrich & Nocioni.

Thought it was gutless of Skiles to pull Nocioni after the flagrant on AD. Leave him in there to take the retaliation like a man.

I think the Bulls are a reflection of Skiles & they are the new Bad Boys of the 21st century & that's with much repsect for Skiles as a coach & former player. Ben Gordon is the new Microwave.

But until they win something, they are just deemed as tough & rumble. Teams like the Wizards & Sun need to show who's more talented AND bring the wood (BHay?!) when they play them.

Posted by: Victor | January 11, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

AC: have to agree on your coaching fit with Gil. I think if you play for Skiles, you are made to fit his system. EJ allows more individual creativty even in the Princeton offense. Which btw, we only 1/4 of anyhow because of the 1 on 1 abilities of Caron & Gil.

Posted by: Victor | January 11, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"He is really hated, but you cannot discredit his game."

Kinda like T.O. right? :)

I never said he was a bad player Mike, in fact a top 10 player. He's just not the BEST player, NOR is he a leader.

I will take Dirk or Nash any day over Kobe. Why? They are NOT selfish on the court and make the players around them better. But this is just my opinion, right?

To take a line from Keith, Dirk scares me more then any other player. Why? No one can guard him...period. And who has been able to guard Nash?

Let's be honest, PHIL JACKSON makes Kobe better. Where would the Lakers ever be without Phil Jackson? They begged him to come back. I'm sorry, I really disagree with you. To me Kobe will always be the second fiddle behind Shaq. Actually, make that THIRD fiddle behind Shaq AND Phil.

I think you've been hanging out with Ric Bucher from ESPN too much. ;)

"1. Our bench can contribute"

They did real good last night, hopefully it will continue. :)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | January 11, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

who would rack their brains for 8 months trying to figure out why kobe changed his uniform number?? that's just flat out pathetic.

Posted by: poptart | January 11, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Michael Lee, you're assessment is accurate. Kobe Bryant is the best player in the world right now. I would ask though that you not use things like 'All-Defensive Teams' as proof. Those things are handed out based on rep like NFL pro bowl voting.

Those seasons where Kobe made the AD team, he'd cruise for quarters at time and turn it on when the team needed it. He's good enough to do that; that is to say control a game in a lot of ways and turn it on when he has to.

At any rate, he might score 60 when he comes by in February. He will remain among my least favorite athletes for several reasons:

1) He is from philly
2) He rolls teammates under a bus (even though he was right about shaq, another BK non-favorite)
3) He is a scumbag
4) His decision early on to try and emulate Jordan is one of the most transparent and pathetic things I have ever seen.

Posted by: Bernard King | January 11, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: dc | January 11, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I think the Bulls played a bit better team ball last night. What they still can't do is jump shoot, but they were penetrating well, cutting to the basket well, moving the ball around, passing out well, etc. They worked on double teaming Gil when they had to. I had to laugh at their innocent faces everytime they were called for their fouls, specially the holding/grabbing/pushing ones. It's great that our guys kept their composure, there's no better revenge than getting the win. Aside from Caron, and a couple of AD penetrations, most of our offense was built around jump shots - a lot of 3 pointers did the Wiz good last night. I'm happy with the win! Good job DeShawn and AD.

Posted by: rgz | January 11, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"Michael Lee, you're assessment is accurate."

Again, just another opinion. :P

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | January 11, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

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