'All respect to Kobe': Pistons' Markieff Morris to wear No. 88 in honor of Bryant
Brooklyn, N.Y. — In the Pistons’ pregame ceremony to honor Kobe Bryant on Monday night, Markieff Morris wore a black Pistons No. 8 jersey with Bryant’s name on the back.
During the game, Morris donned his normal No. 8 Pistons jersey for the last time.
In honoring Kobe Bryant’s legacy, Morris is changing his number from 8 to 88, Morris announced following Wednesday’s shootaround in New York.
Having grown up in Philadelphia and admiring Bryant as a young player, Morris has a special connection and understanding the significance of each of Bryant’s jersey numbers — both 8 and 24 in the NBA and 33 in high school.
“It means the same to everybody, especially coming from where I came from. I grew up idolizing Kobe and that 8, that 24 and that 33 touched me,” Morris said. “I'm going to go with double 8's. All respect to Kobe — I'm going to put it on my jersey twice.”
Morris said he considered other numbers, including 33, until he realized that it was Grant Hill’s and that it’s possibly going to be retired in the future.
The process to change numbers typically is more complicated, but the NBA has expedited the process and is reviewing requests on a case-by-case basis. It seems that the several players around the league who had No. 8 or 24 jerseys are making the switch as well.
Morris explained how the process worked for him.
“You just ask. We talked about it and I know eventually guys will stop playing in (No. 8 or 24 jerseys). It was a collective thing that we in the league wanted to do,” he said. “You tell your equipment manager and if they can make it happen, they can make it happen.”
In the aftermath of Bryant’s tragic death on Sunday, Morris said he found it hard to play on Monday, with the memories of Bryant and other emotions clouding his head. The Pistons lost to the Cavaliers by 15 points, in one of their most lackluster performances of the season.
Morris recalled his fondest memory of Bryant, in their first head-to-head meeting.
“My first game against him when I was in Phoenix. It was just a different feeling, like you can feel greatness when you're around it,” he said. “I'd been watching him since I was able to watch basketball.”
Along with Morris, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, a former Piston, changed his number from 8 to 26. He said the change was to honor Bryant and Gianna, whose numbers 24 and 2 added together is 26.
The Nets had a pregame tribute to honor both Bryants, with a moment of silence and keeping the two seats that they sat in recently empty, with purple and gold roses.
Like the rest of the basketball world, the Pistons are easing back into a regular routine in the aftermath of the Kobe Bryant tragedy.
They had a sluggish game in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. For the Pistons, life coach and psychotherapist Corey Yeager helped to ease some of the pain and helped the players grapple with the emotional tragedy.
“You still feel every time you turn on the TV you see something, so you don't know how that's affecting guys. You hope it's kind of getting back to normal,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Grief hits people in a lot of different ways and it's hard to detect.
“I'm not as qualified as (Yeager) and we have him with us and he's been talking with guys. So, hopefully, it is getting back to normal because you keep saying guys like Kobe would want to be normal, get back to the fray and get back to playing. That’s what he would want to do.”