NBA legend Julius Erving spoke to TMZ Sports at LAX on Saturday and explained why the league will probably not retire the jersey numbers that the late, great Kobe Bryant wore throughout his illustrious career.
Erving, 72, played alongside Kobe’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Despite his love for Kobe and connection to his family, Erving doesn’t believe the Black Mamba should be compared to Bill Russell, who recently passed away at 86.
“Bill was a very special individual and what he did for baketball, no one else could ever do again so I think it’s completely justified to retire his number,” Erving said. “That’s the only number he ever had. Many of us who wore six also had other numbers. I had 32, LeBron [James] has 23.
“I played with Kobe’s dad in Philadelphia — Jellybean. I have empathy for family situations. Should they retire his number, forever? I don’t think he should be compared with the Russell situation. And we’re fresh into that so let’s see how that works out. Maybe at some point in time. Bill was 86 years old.”
Julius Erving on Kobe Bryant vs. Bill Russell
Erving went on to list more reasons why there’s no comparison between Kobe and Bill.
“Multiple champion, multiple coaching champion, multiple on-and-off the court champion,” Erving said of Russell. “There’s no comparison. I wouldn’t even try to compare Kobe Bryant to Bill Russell.
“It’s more of a franchise situation with the [Los Angeles] Lakers. If they wanted to do it, which I think they already have, that makes sense — but for the whole league to do it, probably not.”
Days after his death, Russell became the first NBA player ever to get his jersey retired across the entire league, an honor that Bryant has yet to receive since tragically dying in 2020.