The 19-foot-tall, 4,000-pound statue depicts Bryant with his right arm raised in the air and pointing, a pose captured as he walked off the court after a career-high performance against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006, having scored 81 points.
“For the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see,” his widow, Vanessa Bryant, told the crowd. “So if anyone has any issues with it, tough shit.”
Vanessa revealed at the unveiling ceremony that the statue is the first of a planned three statues to honor her late husband, who died alongside their daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. The next statue will be of Bryant and Gianna, while the third will feature Bryant in the No. 24 jersey he wore during the latter half of his career.
“Because fans all over the world and the City of Angels loved Kobe so much, he will have three statues in front of the arena—also known as the house that Kobe built,” Vanessa said of the Crypto.com Arena.
The day of the ceremony was picked to honor both Bryant and Gianna, with 2/8/24 reflecting both their jersey numbers.
Bryant is the sixth Lakers player to be commemorated with a statue outside the downtown arena, according to The Athletic. The others are Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The longtime Lakers announcer Chick Hearn also has a statue in Star Plaza.
Abdul-Jabbar was one of several others who spoke on Thursday. “We’re all here to honor a man who represents not just extraordinary sports achievement, but also timeless values that inspires us all to try harder to be not just better but our best,” he said, according to USA Today.
Lakers owner and president Jeanie Buss recalled that her father Jerry, the franchise’s owner during its iconic Showtime era, had rebuffed every offer to trade Bryant. He explained that “Kobe was as rare as a flawless five-carat diamond and five one-carat diamonds would never equal the same value,” Buss said.
“I think of Kobe constantly,” she continued, according to KABC-TV. “I miss him and Gigi more than words can say. But 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, and we will share what he meant to us.”
The statue, which includes a QR code that fans can scan to watch highlights from Bryant’s career, includes a quote from the athlete, ESPN reported: “Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend.”
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