Few have given their entire soul and heart to the game like NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
His signature shots, NBA Finals victories, and moments with his family inspired those in the basketball community and beyond to lovingly obsess over the idea of achieving greatness. Kobe craved winning and wanted to be the absolute best he could be, night in and night out.
It’s a message the resonates with guard/forward Norman Powell. Powell, who was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood, explained the importance of wearing jersey No. 24, the number he will don in Portland.
“There’s a little back story,” Powell said Friday. “I was going to wear the No. 4 when I first got to the league, but we got Luis Scola my rookie year. You know being a rookie, you have to give your number up to the vet. Coming into the league growing up, Kobe was my idol, so I thought when I first came to the league, just start a whole chapter of actually being able to wear 24… My basketball career, I was never able to have a chance to do that, so 24 was the number.”
After Bryant and eight others were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Jan. 2020, Powell says “everybody was on me about giving up the number and not wearing it.”
But the 27-year-old couldn’t shake his Mamba Mentality. Instead, he made wearing the No. 24 about showcasing his craft on the floor and making Kobe proud.
“I just thought it was the best way to dedicate how much Kobe meant to me… go out there and lay it on the line,” Powell said. “Every second I’m on the court, I give my heart and soul to the game, just like Kobe did. That was the best way for me to represent that, which is why I kept 24.”
Powell will take the floor in his No. 24 Trail Blazers jersey for the first time Friday night as Portland takes on the Orlando Magic at 5:00 p.m.
He looks to bring his tough, gritty play to Rip City and he says fans can expect him to always “leave it on the floor,” just like Black Mamba himself.
“Hopefully I can do that over the course of my career, just to dance beautifully in the box that Kobe always talked about, in my box,” Powell said. “That’s why I wear No. 24.”