Mamba Mentality: Incoming Jayhawk Bryce Thompson to wear No. 24 at Kansas

Booker T. Washington basketball player Bryce Thompson announces his signing with the University of Kansas in Tulsa, Okla., on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

The Kansas men’s basketball program announced last week that incoming freshman Bryce Thompson will wear No. 24 with the Jayhawks.

A single-digit wearer throughout his senior season at Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, Okla., Thompson is making the move to double digits as a way to keep alive the memory of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

“I chose No. 24 to honor Kobe and the mamba mentality,” Thompson said in a recent news release. “Reminding myself that every time I step on the court to give it my all and nothing else.”

Bryant, who became known as “The Black Mamba” or simply “Mamba,” died in late January in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles.

Since his passing, dozens of athletes around the world have found ways to honor his memory and legacy.

Some have written his name or initials on their shoes on game nights. Others have sought to score 24 points or grab eight rebounds to honor the two jersey numbers he wore during his Hall of Fame career with the Lakers.

And others, like Thompson will, changed their own jersey numbers, either temporarily or permanently, to pay homage to Bryant’s career, mentality and life.

Thompson’s love for Bryant is nothing new.

On the day of the fatal crash, Thompson posted a picture of Bryant to his Instagram page. The photo depicted Bryant in the Lakers locker room, wearing a leather jacket and clutching the Larry O’Brien Trophy after helping Los Angeles win another world championship.

On the day after the Lakers’ Bryant memorial at Staple Center, Thompson posted a two-minute video that summed up his love for Bryant to his Twitter page.

“An inspiration to us all. You will be dearly missed,” Thompson tweeted with the video. “#MambaForever.”

And in the video was footage of Thompson beating his father, Rod, in a game of one-on-one and yelling, “Kobe! Call me Kobe,” after hitting the game-winner against his dad.

“Kobe Bryant has pushed me,” said Thompson in October of 2018, a clip of which was included in the Twitter video. “Simple. There’s a video on YouTube I used to watch when I was in eighth grade. I would watch it. It would motivate me. So therefore when I woke up, I had that thought in my mind.”

The video also included a couple of Kobe-esque highlights from Thompson’s career, complete with the initial move by Bryant playing before the copycat version by Thompson.

The incoming KU freshman even took it as far as to include a clip of his signing day message to KU fans in French as a way to honor Bryant’s ability to fluently speak Italian and other languages.

Thompson’s video also tells the story of how he picked up moves from Bryant over the years.

“I’d have my phone right there, press play, see a move he does and now I’ll do that rep 25 times. And to see it work and be able to do it over a defender is big time.”