Zhaire Smith has chosen to no longer wear the No. 8 jersey in order to honor the legacy of Kobe Bryant.
The former Lower Merion High and Lakers great was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles. The Lakers retired his jersey numbers, No. 8 and No. 24, back on Dec. 18, 2017.
“I was thinking about it overnight when it happened,” Smith said of no longer wearing the number. “Then today, I decided to change it honor him.”
It was something that he just felt in his heart that led him to the jersey change.
The second-year reserve guard wore No.7 in Tuesday’s victory 115-014 victory over the Golden State Warriors at the Wells Fargo Center. He plans to move on to No. 5 afterward.
Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie and Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross will also stop wearing No. 8.
Ross will switch back to wearing No. 31. He wore that number for eight seasons before switching to No. 8 this season. Dinwiddie will switch to No. 26.
Smith said his teammates respected his decision to change jersey numbers.
He wore No. 7 on Tuesday, because the No. 5 jersey wasn’t ready.
The former Texas Tech standout used to wear No. 8 in honor of Bryant.
“Predraft I really wanted 2 coming out of Tech,” he said of his college number. “But that’s retired [by Moses Malone]. I found out 8 was available. So I said that’s Kobe. So I did that for him.”
Bryant was Smith’s idol growing up. The Garland, Tx. native used to watch the future Hall of Famer and Lakers standout LeBron James as a youth.
“But mainly him,” Smith said of Bryant. “The Mamba mentality. I just carry that mentality with me, grinding.”
Bryant’s fadeaway jumper was his favorite part of the 18-time All-Stars game.
“It was unblockable,” he said.
Tuesday’s game was Smith’s second appearance of the season. He finished with three points and a steal in 9 minutes, 50 seconds off the bench. His first appearance came Sunday night against the Lakers. However, he suffered a left ankle sprain in the first quarter of that game and did not return.