Rui Hachimura hasn’t logged many minutes for the Lakers just yet, but a jersey-related decision should already make him a fan favorite.
During a recent interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on the “Know Mercy” podcast, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss revealed that Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, served as the inspiration for Hachimura’s switch to No. 28.
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Before being traded from Washington to Los Angeles last week, Hachimura wore No. 8. That number was not available when he joined the Lakers, though, because they had retired Bryant’s No. 8 as well as his No. 24.
So, what did Hachimura do with his old number off the board? He combined the numbers previously worn by Kobe and Gianna.
“Our new player, Hachimura, I met him, and I asked him, ‘Have you chosen a number yet?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m wearing No. 28,'” Buss told Smith. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, great!’ And he said, ‘Because of No. 2 for Gianna and No. 8 for Kobe.’
“And I was like, ‘This kid’s gonna do good.’ I like where his heart’s at.”
At his introductory press conference, Hachimura expressed his admiration for the Hall of Famer, saying that Bryant was the reason why he began playing basketball. After Kobe and Gianna died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, Hachimura posted on Twitter that Bryant was his “hero.”
“He was more than just a basketball player,” Hachimura tweeted (via Google translation). “It’s really sad that this kind of accident happened this time. My deepest condolences to his family and to those affected by this accident. Thank you Kobe.”
Now, Hachimura will look to honor Bryant’s legacy by contributing to a Lakers team that is hoping to avoid missing out on a playoff berth in back-to-back seasons.