Los Angeles Lakers unveil first of 3 Kobe Bryant statues in emotional ceremony – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports | Fort Lauderdale
(CNN) — The Los Angeles Lakers have immortalized franchise legend Kobe Bryant in a towering 19-foot statue unveiled in an emotional ceremony at Crypto.Com Arena Thursday night.
The 4,000-pound bronze sculpture features Bryant wearing his No. 8 jersey and pointing his finger skyward – capturing the moment the star walked off the court following his career-high, 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
“For the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see,” Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, said of the statue’s pose ahead of its reveal. She expressed gratitude for her husband’s scores of fans, saying, “This moment isn’t just for Kobe, but it’s for all of you that have been rooting for him all of these years.”
Vanessa Bryant also announced that the statue is the first of three that will be placed outside the arena. The second one will feature him wearing a No. 24 jersey and a third will feature his daughter, Gianna Bryant.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant were among a group of nine people who were killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020. The date of the statue unveiling, 2-8-2024, coincided with the two jersey numbers Bryant wore during his playing career, No. 8 and 24, while the No. 2 represents a jersey number Gianna wore.
“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,” Vanessa Bryant added Thursday, according to a release from the Lakers.
The statue, sculpted by Julie Rotblatt Amrany, is encircled by replicas of Kobe Bryant’s five NBA championship trophies. The Bryant family also requested that all four of his daughters’ names be etched onto the statue’s arm as tattoos, though three had yet to be born when the star achieved his 81-point game, the Lakers said.
The triangular base bears inscriptions of many of Bryant’s career accomplishments, as well as one of his most iconic quotes: “Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend.”
Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star during his 20-year career with the Lakers. He is only the seventh player in franchise history to be commemorated with a statue, joined by Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jerry West and Chick Hearn.
“Anyone who watched him play the game, knows he did things on the court unlike anyone else. He was a scrapper, a fighter, a winner and he was also an artist and he could bend the world to his will,” Lakers governor Jeanie Buss said at the ceremony of Bryant’s legacy.
“Seeing Kobe play was like watching a miracle unfold,” Buss recalled her father, Jerry, saying about Bryant. “An NBA team once offered to trade us five players in exchange for Kobe, but Dr. Buss declined, explaining Kobe was as rare as a flawless five-karat diamond and five one-karat diamonds would never equal the same value.”
Inside Crypto.com Arena Thursday night, the Lakers played against the Denver Nuggets while wearing their “Black Mamba” uniforms, which were co-designed by the late Lakers star in a nod to his on-court nickname. The uniforms, which originally debuted during the 2017-18 season, feature a black snakeskin print, an “LA 24” on the belt and the Nos. 8 and 24 under the flap of each leg of the shorts.