Kobe Bryant immortalized with a 19-foot bronze statue outside the Lakers' downtown arena


LOS ANGELES — 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.

“This statue may look like Kobe, but really it’s what excellence looks like,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said. “What discipline looks like. What commitment looks like. … It captures a person frozen in time, while at the same time acknowledges that the reason there is a statue in the first place is because that person is timeless. We’re all here today to honor a man who represents not just extraordinary sports achievement, but also timeless values that inspire us all to try harder to be not just better, but our best.”

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 team owner Jeanie Buss, former teammate Derek Fisher, Abdul-Jabbar and longtime Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

“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 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. As we do so, we will motivate a new generation to emulate the Mamba Mentality.”

Bryant retired in 2016 after a 20-year career spent entirely with the Lakers. He is the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points, and his accolades included 18 NBA All-Star selections and two NBA Finals MVP awards.

His death has scarcely dimmed the shine of his presence in Los Angeles, where he remains a beloved icon of his adopted city. Bryant and his daughter are featured in hundreds of vibrant public murals across the Southland.

Even before Bryant’s death, Lakers fans speculated about the pose or image that would be immortalized in his statue. While the announcement of three statues changes the argument, Vanessa Bryant said there shouldn’t be a debate at all: Kobe himself chose the pose for the first statue before his death.

“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,” she said. “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.

“It brings me joy to see how much love you have for all of us. We love you back.”

The statue’s base reads: “Kobe Bean Bryant,” with his nickname, “Black Mamba,” carved below. The triangular platform — a nod to Jackson assistant Tex Winter’s famed triangle offense, the bedrock of the Lakers’ success in the 2000s — is surrounded by five replicas of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The base includes the box score from his 81-point game and a QR code for fans to watch highlights of the performance. A Bryant quote is also featured: “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 Staples Center throughout Bryant’s career. He joins Shaquille O’Neal, Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Lakers announcer Chick Hearn.

“He wasn’t just a champion,” Fisher said. “He was unmatched. A rare specimen that left opposing players in awe, teammates inspired. He didn’t just play the game. He defined it. That’s really what it was like to be around him on a daily basis. He set the standard. He broke records. The legacy he leaves behind are foundations upon which current players and future players build their dreams.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA



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