Julius Erving reveals controversial stance on Kobe Bryant’s number retirement

It’s been a little over two and a half years since Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash. While TMZ was the first to report the death, stating that his daughter GiGi also died in the crash, the media outlet was later reprimanded by police over the timing of the news release, per CNN. The entire Lakers team learned of the death while on a plane returning home from a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“There was this awkward time where I was like, ‘This is a crazy report,'” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told ESPN of receiving the message on the flight home. “Like ‘That’s not true. My expectation was to hear that it was a hoax.” Reportedly, players started waking up and scouring the internet for answers. Many of them denied it and ended up breaking down crying.

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, recently endured an 11-day trial after she claimed photos taken of the bodies and released after the helicopter crash caused “grief,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Vanessa won the case and reported that she plans to donate the $16 million she won to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation in honor of her late husband. The NBA is reportedly considering honoring the basketball legend by retiring her number, but another basketball legend disagrees with the idea.

Julius Erving thinks the league shouldn’t retire Kobe Bryant’s numbers

In November 2015, Kobe Bryant retired from basketball. In 2017, the Lakers held a ceremony and announced they would be retiring the basketball legend’s numbers — 8 and 24 — for “the remainder of franchise history,” according to the NBA. The jerseys were hung from the rafters alongside other Lakers legends such as Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson. But after Bryant’s death, the league-wide retirement of his numbers became a topic of discussion. Julius Erving aka Dr. J – a former basketball player – doesn’t think it’s a good idea for the league to withdraw Bryant’s numbers.

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“It’s more of a franchise situation with the Lakers,” Erving, who helped found the NBA, told TMZ. “If they wanted to do it, which I think they already have, that makes sense – but for the whole league, probably not.” The former basketball player also spoke about the comparisons to Bill Russell, who also died in 2020 and had his number retired league-wide. “Bill was 86 years old, so you address it that way to an 86-year-old … there’s no comparison,” Erving said. “I wouldn’t even try to compare Kobe Bryant to Russell.”

Despite Erving’s opinion, players have already made efforts to “informally” retire Bryant’s numbers, according to Complex. Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie became the first to change his jersey number from 8 to 26 out of respect for the late NBA player. Perhaps one day the league will decide to officially retire the numbers.