The Los Angeles Lakers unveiled a statue of Kobe Bryant on Thursday, honoring their late superstar with a 19-foot bronze likeness outside their downtown arena.
The 4,000-pound statue depicts Bryant in his white No. 8 jersey with his right index finger raised as he walked off the court following his 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, said during the dedication ceremony that the statue is the first of three that will be created to honor the five-time NBA champion and top scorer in Lakers history.
Another statue will feature Bryant in his No. 24 jersey, which he wore for the second half of his career, while a third will depict Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who died with him and seven others in a helicopter crash in January 2020.
‘And for the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see. So if anyone has any issues with it, tough s—. It is what it is,’ she added.
His widow, Vanessa, gave an emotional speech during the dedication ceremony in Los Angeles
The first statue was unveiled in front of dozens of Lakers greats and season ticket holders
The first statue was unveiled at a ceremony attended by dozens of Lakers greats and hundreds of season ticket holders. Vanessa Bryant spoke at the ceremony after remarks from owner Jeanie Buss, former teammate Derek Fisher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and longtime Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
‘It goes without saying that today is an especially sad day for us since Kobe and Gigi aren’t here for what is supposed to be an incredibly joyous moment and Kobe’s legacy,’ began Vanessa. ‘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, 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. You welcomed him with open arms and have been so important to him, our family and his legacy.’
‘I think of Kobe constantly, and I miss him and Gigi more than words can say,’ Buss said. ‘But today, I’m filled with joy.’
The statue’s base reads: ‘Kobe Bean Bryant,’ with his nickname, ‘Black Mamba,’ carved below. The platform is surrounded by five replicas of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The base also features the box score from his 81-point game, along with a Bryant quote: ‘Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend.’
Bryant is the sixth Lakers player and seventh team employee to be honored with a statue in Star Plaza outside of the arena known as the Staples Center throughout Bryant’s career. He joins Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Lakers announcer Chick Hearn.
The date of the ceremony – 2/8 – was symbolic. No. 2 was the jersey number of aspiring basketball player Gianna Bryant, and her father wore No. 8. The two and seven others were killed January 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash.
The 4,000-pound statue depicts Bryant in his white No. 8 jersey with his index finger raised
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss (left) and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attended the event
Vanessa Bryant revealed that the statue is the first of three that will be created in his honor
Buss, Derek Fisher, Abdul-Jabbar, Phil Jackson and Vanessa Bryant (L-R) sit on the stage
The dedication took place in front of a small group and not for public viewing, except on television and locally heavy rains this week had forced the ceremony to be held under a tent. The public can visit the statue beginning Friday morning.
Bryant joined the Lakers as a teenager straight out of high school and spent his entire career in Los Angeles, winning five NBA titles and retiring after the 2015-16 season. In the history of a franchise filled with great players, Bryant holds numerous team records, including points and games played.
His 33,643 points are fourth in NBA history, with three men who’ve played with the Lakers — LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone — standing ahead of him.
‘It’s only right,’ James told the Los Angeles Times about the statue. ‘I mean, the guy spent two decades with the organization, won multiple championships, set a precedent of what it means to strive for excellence.
‘His accomplishments speak alone. Not only his inspiration, but how he inspires off the floor as well, in the community and across the landscape of basketball. So, I think it’s a beautiful moment, not only for him but for his family.’