February 9, 2024 – 3:30 AM PST
Kobe Bryant was known for exceeding expectations, so it should have come as no surprise that on the day the late star’s statue was unveiled outside of the Los Angeles Lakers’ home arena, it was revealed that three statues will ultimately don the downtown L.A. property.
In a private ceremony outside of Crypto.com Arena on Thursday, the biggest names in Lakers history were in attendance — from Jerry West to Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and former head coach Phil Jackson. Pau Gasol was there, as was Norm Nixon, Michael Cooper and Robert Horry.
Abdul-Jabbar and Jackson spoke at the ceremony, along with Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss, former Laker Derek Fisher and Bryant’s widow Vanessa.
“As I see today’s current generation of star players follow in Kobe’s footsteps with huge scoring games, I know he would take pride in knowing that he is still pouring inspiration into the game that was so special to him,” Vanessa Bryant said.
It was Vanessa Bryant that revealed the plan to have three statues.
“I leave you with one of my husband’s amazing quotes,” Vanessa Bryant said. “‘Leave the game better than you found it and when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend.’ And that he did.”
With that, the first Bryant statue was revealed from behind a gold curtain with confetti flying. It depicts Bryant in a white Lakers uniform with the No. 8. His right index finger is pointed into the air, depicting the moment after his 81-point performance Jan. 22, 2006, against the Toronto Raptors.
The base of the statue is a triangle in honor of the triangle offense Bryant perfected under Jackson and assistant coach Tex Winter.
The date of the ceremony — 2/8/24 — was symbolic. No. 2 was the jersey number of his daughter and aspiring basketball player Gianna Bryant, and her father wore both No. 8 and No. 24 during his Hall of Fame career.
Kobe, Gianna and seven others were killed Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash.
While another of the statues will depict Bryant wearing his No. 24 jersey, the third will be of Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
Starting Friday morning, the public can visit the statue unveiled Thursday.
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 have played with the Lakers — LeBron James, Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone — standing ahead of him.
“I’ve missed Kobe so much, like everyone else does,” said Lakers legend James Worthy, who is now an analysist on Lakers broadcasts. “Anybody he came in touch with, he made it a special moment in their life. But this unveiling of this statue is amazing because it almost comes alive. Looking at it, you can see Kobe, you can feel Kobe, you can hear his voice.”
Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, West and announcer Chick Hearn also have been immortalized with statues representing the Lakers at the downtown Los Angeles venue.
–Field Level Media