Kobe Bryant was immortalized with a statue in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday in an emotional ceremony featuring some of basketball’s all-time greats.
The Lakers unveiled the statue outside of Crypto.com Arena alongside Bryant’s widow Vanessa Bryant. The date of the unveiling — 2/8/24 — incorporates the No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys Bryant wore with the Lakers alongside the No. 2 Gianna wore on her youth basketball team.
The design and pose of the statue wasn’t revealed until it was unveiled Thursday afternoon. It features Bryant standing in a victorious pose with his right hand held in the air from his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
Vanessa introduced the statue with a quote from Kobe.
“Leave the game better than you found it, and when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend,” she said. “And that he did.”
She also added a note a about the pose.
“For the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see. If anyone has any issues with it, tough s***.”
Bryant will have 3 statues outside Crypto.com Arena
Vanessa revealed that the statue would be one of three placed outside of the arena. The one revealed Thursday features Bryant wearing No. 8.
Another will feature Bryant in his 24 jersey. Another will feature Bryant standing alongside his daughter Gianna, who died with Bryant and seven others in a 2020 helicopter crash in Southern California. Those statues were not unveiled at the ceremony. The Lakers clarified after the ceremony that the date of the unveiling of the other two statues is yet to be determined
Vanessa consulted on the design of the statue that includes details like tattoos of their daughters’ names on Kobe’s arm. It also features a triangle-shaped base in tribute to the famed triangle offense that Kobe played in that was developed by Tex Winter and implemented by head coach Phil Jackson.
That base includes inscriptions documenting some of Kobe’s career achievements.
Planning for Bryant’s statue was underway prior to his death and included his input. Sculptor Julie Rotblatt Amrany of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany consulted with Bryant on its creation, according to a release from 2023 announcing the statue.
Greats show up to pay tribute to Kobe
Thursday’s unveiling took place in a private ceremony outside of the arena ahead of Thursday’s game against Denver Nuggets. Prior to the reveal, the Lakers played a tribute video of Bryant’s greatest on-court moments, including his 62-point effort against the Dallas Mavericks in 2005 and his 81 point-game that remains the second-highest single-game point total in NBA history.
Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Candace Parker, Robert Horry, Lamar Odom and NBA commissioner Adam Silver were among those in attendance. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Derek Fisher, Jackson and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss took the stage to pay tribute to Bryant alongside Vanessa.
Fisher joined Bryant on the Lakers as a rookie in 1996 and shared a backcourt with him for 13 seasons. He spoke fondly of Bryant as a player and a person.
“One of the greatest human beings — not just basketball players — one of the greatest human beings to ever walk this earth.”
Derek Fisher on Kobe Bryant 💜💛 pic.twitter.com/CgIGrbkC0r
— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 8, 2024
“In the realm of sports, Kobe was not merely a great player. He was a dedicated father,” Fisher said. “He was a dedicated father, pillar of strength for his family. His commitment to fatherhood was unwavering, just as his dedication to the game was …
“He didn’t just play the game. He defined it.”
Jackson reveals Kobe’s message to Michael Jordan
Jackson coached Bryant in each of his five NBA championships. He told a story of arranging a meeting between a young Bryant and Michael Jordan, whom he coached to six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls. There, according to Jackson, Bryant issued a challenge to the game’s all-time great.
“Michael, I can take you one on one,” Bryant said, per Jackson.
After Jackson spoke, Vanessa gave the final speech before the statue was unveiled.
“This moment isn’t just for Kobe,” she said. “But it is for all of you who have been rooting for him for all of these years … It brings me joy to see how much love you have for all of us. We love you back.”
Lakers wearing ‘Black Mamba’ jerseys vs. Nuggets
Before the ceremony, the Lakers unveiled the “Black Mamba” edition jerseys that were co-designed by Bryant that they would wear for Thursday’s game. The uniforms were accompanied by warmups featuring images of Bryant and his No. 24.
Shaquille O’Neal pays tribute via video
Prior to the unveiling, Shaquille O’Neal offered a tribute to Bryant shared by TNT. O’Neal played eight seasons alongside Bryant with the Lakers. They won three championships together as one of the NBA’s all-time great tandems.
Bryant is an icon of the game, and his legacy has amplified in the aftermath of his death. A quintessential Laker, he played 20 NBA seasons, all of them in Los Angeles.
Bryant won five NBA championships and was named an All-Star 18 times. He was named All-NBA 15 times, including 11 first-team selections. He was a 12-time All-Defensive Team member, a two-time scoring champion and league MVP in the 2007-08 season. He won two Finals MVPs on championship teams featuring Pau Gasol.
For his career, Bryant averaged 24.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 44.7% from the floor and 32.9% from 3-point distance. With 33,643 points, he’s the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history behind LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. He was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.
Bryant’s beloved among a Lakers pantheon of all-time greats, including Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and O’Neal. He remains a source of inspiration for the NBA’s new generation of talent. Thirty-nine active NBA players wear either No. 8 or No. 24.
First appeared on sports.yahoo.com