It was the uniform that Kobe Bryant wore the very first time he suited up for the Lakers back on Nov. 3, 1996. The teenager wore these gold threads for home games through the first three years of his career before the Lakers upgraded to their modern look.
Bryant flew through the air in 1997 wearing this purple kit, dropping hammers to win the Slam Dunk Contest at only 18 years old. However, he also learned some painful lessons in these threads, including tough postseason sweeps by Utah and San Antonio before the three-peat years.
In an almost poetic coincidence, the Lakers didn’t win their first championship since Showtime until they updated their uniforms. When the clock ran out in Game 5 of the 2000 Finals, Kobe and co. celebrated in their gold duds. Just two weeks earlier, they also wore them when Bryant and O’Neal led the team to a 16-point fourth-quarter comeback in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
When Kobe stood on the podium to lift up the Larry O’Brien championship trophies in 2001 and 2002, he was wearing this jersey. Bryant also provided one of the great moments of his young career in this outfit, scoring 28 points — including three overtime baskets — to beat Indiana in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals after Shaquille O’Neal had fouled out.
It was the uniform Kobe Bryant wore on that immortal night of Jan. 22, 2006. Nobody on the floor could stop the man wearing No. 8 in white, as he exploded for 81 points — the second-most in NBA history.
Is there a more lasting image for Lakers fans than when Kobe celebrated a Game 7 NBA Finals victory over the rival Celtics by standing on the scorer’s table in his gold uniform and shouting with the Staples Center faithful?
For the first time — on June 14, 2009 in Orlando — Kobe Bryant lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy without Shaquille O’Neal, and he did so after winning the championship in the Lakers’ road unis. Five years later, he’d rock the purple during another milestone, as he passed Michael Jordan for the third-most points in NBA history.
The Sunday whites have special meaning for the Lakers, as they were created to honor legendary broadcaster Chick Hearn. Even the 2009 championship ring was designed with white gold in reference to these threads and the man they honor.
The Black Mamba donned black threads a number of times toward the end of his career, including during the Lakers’ first win of his final season. Co-owner and team President Jeanie Buss called the uniform “a nod to the huge number of people that work behind the scenes to make up one of L.A.’s biggest industries,” as well as the Lakers’ large number of celebrity fans.