Carolina Panthers first-round pick Jaycee Horn will start his NFL career honoring a late NBA legend. The former South Carolina defensive back announced he’ll wear a No. 8 jersey as a tribute to Kobe Bryant.
While Horn considered taking No. 24, the Black Mamba’s other number, he decided to stick with the earlier version worn by Bryant until 2006. The Lakers star reportedly switched to his high school number as a “clean slate” after Shaquille O’Neal was traded away from Los Angeles in 2004.
Both of Bryant’s numbers were retired in the rafters of Staples Center following his 20-year NBA career. The five-time champion and sports icon was killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on board. The NBA allowed players to change their jersey numbers mid-season in order to honor the legacies of Kobe and his Gianna shortly after the tragedy.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Darius Slay switched to No. 24 to honor Kobe after being traded by the Detroit Lions last year. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Bryant was a lifelong Eagles fan and remained so even after playing his entire career in the City of Angels.
Horn didn’t have a personal relationship with Bryant, but felt connected to his persona growing up as an NBA fan. He stays with a single-digit jersey in the NFL after wearing both No. 7 and No. 1 at South Carolina.
He became a second-generation player in the NFL with his All-Pro father, Joe, spending 12 years in the league as a wide receiver, most notably with the New Orleans Saints.