Isaiah Thomas says it was "only right" to choose #24 when he signed with the N.O. Pelicans last week -- explaining it's the perfect way to pay tribute to his mentor, Kobe Bryant.
32-year-old Thomas inked a 10-day contract with the Pels on Friday -- and got emotional when talking to the media Tuesday about his jersey number selection before making his debut with the team.
'Kobe was one of my very close mentors," Thomas said ... "And [choosing #24] was an opportunity to pay homage to one of the best players to ever play the game."
"Hopefully it works out and I could play like Kobe a little bit if I get in there."
Thomas and Kobe had a close relationship -- IT says he would regularly text and call Mamba for advice about the game ... and about life.
"And, I miss that ... about being able to reach out to not one of the best basketball players in the world, but one of the best people in the world."
Kobe passed away in January 2020 -- but IT has vowed to honor Bryant's legacy every time he steps on the court ... and he certainly delivered on Tuesday.
IT made an immediate impact for the Pels as they took on the Atlanta Hawks -- scoring 8 straight points after he checked in.
8 straight points for @isaiahthomas 💪 pic.twitter.com/orEMVultsT— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) April 7, 2021
8 straight points for @isaiahthomas 💪 pic.twitter.com/orEMVultsT
Isaiah's Pelicans didn't win the game -- but IT was playing some inspired ball, logging 10 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assist in 25 minutes.