Deadspin reader Jack Kogod has hit the nail on the head, I am certain.
Why would Kobe Bryant switch his number from 8 to 24? He has been secretive about it.
Here's the deal, though. Michael Jordan was #23. The Nike Jordan XXIII's are the next ones due out (CORRECTION THAT BLOWS THIS WHOLE THEORY MORE OR LESS TO HELL: the XXIII's are actually nearly two years away), at next year's All-Star game. Wouldn't it be cool if the line were then retired, only be taken over by "the new Jordan," Kobe Bryant, #24?
Can you imagine that meeting? "Umm, Mr. Jordan, what do you think about having Kobe Bryant be Michael Jordan from here on out..."
Assuming this is the truth, and I'd bet good money that it is, then I salute the geniuses at Nike for thinking of it. Clever.
But a lot of the poetry is lost because Bryant is, apparently, in the end, changing his number and his identity to help Nike make more money. That's not as exciting as if he had always been #24.
On a somewhat related note, this whole number switching deal inspired TrueHoop reader Aaron to read the new collective bargaining agreement, and he noticed a whole other issue, namely that keeping your number when you switch teams could get harder than ever:
Under the new CBA a player can only change numbers when switching teams or after 4 years on the same team.
This creates a problem. In the past when a big name player moved teams in the past they were allowed to bump lowly guys out of their numbers within team rules... a payment to the scrub etc. Under this new rule, the scrub has to be eligible to switch numbers before he can give his number up to the star who is incoming. The star is eligible to switch numbers because of the team transfer, but not the guy on the non-gauranteed contract.
This new rule is meant to prevent the problems in marketing ala Ron Artest type uniform number transfers. But as far as I can see they have created a serious hurdle in stars keeping uniform numbers if traded.
Aaron adds that there may be loopholes he's not seeing, but he's not seeing them, if you see what I mean.