The long wait for the statue to commemorate the late Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant is finally over.
The first of three Bryant statues was unveiled on Thursday afternoon outside Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, unveiled the statue and announced that the Lakers would complete a total of three statues for the five-time NBA champion.
One, wearing the No. 8 jersey to signify the first 10 years of Bryant’s Hall of Fame career. A second statue wearing the No. 24 jersey to signify the second (and final) chapter of his NBA career. And finally, a third statue with his daughter Gianna Bryant.
“If you think about it, he really had two careers here,” said Bryant’s teammate Robert Horry to Spectrum SportsNet after the unveiling. “One wearing No. 8 and one wearing No. 24. So it’s only fitting that he will have three statues here.”
Vanessa thanked Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss for working with her on the statues and called Crypto.com Arena, formerly Staples Center, “The House that Kobe Built.”
“Today I am filled with joy because in the future, I know fans will gather here, in the shade of this statue, beside this building where Kobe gave us so many memories,” said Jeanie Buss. “And we will share what he meant to us, and, as we do so, we will motivate a new generation to emulate the Mamba Mentality. And, might I add, I bet we will see photos of a marriage proposal that takes place right here inspired by the true love story of Kobe and Vanessa.”
Vanessa also chose the date of the statue unveiling: February 2nd, 2024. 2/8/24, a numerology in honor of Gianna’s number 2 jersey, and Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys with the Lakers. Kobe and Gianna were among nine people killed in January of 2020, after a helicopter they were passengers in crashed into the mountains in Calabasas, CA.
Bryant’s first statue joined a plethora of other Lakers’ legends inside “Star Plaza” at Crypto.com Arena. In addition to Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jerry West, and Hall-of-Fame Lakers announcer Chick Hearn all have statues inside Star Plaza.
“I’m thankful for all the fans,” Vanessa said. “Kobe has so many people that have supported him all over the world from the very beginning and this moment isn’t just for Kobe, but it’s for all of you that have been rooting for him all of these years. And to the fans here in LA, this is a special city Kobe was so proud to represent. It brings me joy to see how much love you have for all of us. We love you back.”
Los Angeles Kings legends Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille also have statues in Star Plaza, as does boxer Oscar De La Hoya.
The statue was unveiled during a private ceremony ahead of the Lakers game versus the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night, in which the team will wear the Bryant-designed “Black Mamba” jerseys. The statue will open to the public a day later at 10:00AM on Friday, February 9th.
The statue showcases Kobe wearing his No. 8 “Sunday White” jersey and pointing to the sky with his right hand. He also has the names of his daughters tattooed on his arm. The statue is an artistic rendering of his infamous 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006.
Bryant is also surrounded by five Larry O’Brien championship trophies at the base of the statue, to represent his five titles.
The triangle-shaped base of the statue, is a nod to Tex Winter and Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, which the Lakers ran during all five championship runs.
“He was serious about the game of basketball,” said Jackson during a speech at the unveiling. “When I came to the Laker organization, Jerry West had provided a room for Kobe to meet with me. It was private, prior to the ceremony, and he talked about how many hours he had watched the former team that I had coached play basketball. He was ready to step into that. He was ready to win championships. He was 22.”
Etched in the base is the words “Kobe Bean Bryant “Black Mamba” and includes various accolades Bryant achieved during his illustrious career. It also features a famous quote by Kobe, “Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend.”
The 19-foot-high, 4,000-pound bronze statue was sculpted by Omri Amrany and Jule Roblatt-Amrany, a couple based out of Illinois that were also commissioned to sculpt all the other Lakers’ statues at Star Plaza.
“For the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see,” said Vanessa Bryant before the unveiling.
Several of those Lakers’ legends with statues like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson were in attendance, as were several of his former teammates like Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and more.
Bryant played all 20 of his NBA seasons with the Lakers. During his NBA tenure, he was an 18-time NBA All-Star, won five championships, an NBA MVP, two NBA Finals MVPS, and two Olympic Gold Medals.
Bryant was inducted post posthumously into the The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 15, 2021.
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Source: NBC Los Angeles