LOS ANGELES — In a momentous event, the Los Angeles Lakers revealed a magnificent statue of the legendary Kobe Bryant on Thursday, a fitting tribute to their beloved superstar. Standing tall at 19 feet, this awe-inspiring bronze likeness now graces the exterior of their downtown arena, forever immortalizing Bryant’s extraordinary career. The 4,000-pound statue captures Bryant in his iconic white No. 8 jersey, with his right index finger raised as he gracefully walks off the court, etching into memory the unforgettable night of his 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006.
During the dedication ceremony, Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, expressed that this statue is the first of three planned to honor the five-time NBA champion and Lakers all-time leading scorer. Each statue will embody a different significant phase of Bryant’s life and legacy. The second statue will depict Bryant donning his revered No. 24 jersey, symbolizing the latter half of his illustrious career. The third statue, a poignant tribute, will showcase Kobe and his beloved daughter, Gianna, who tragically lost their lives alongside seven others in a devastating helicopter crash in January 2020.
“This statue may look like Kobe, but really it’s what excellence looks like,” eloquently stated Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the unveiling ceremony. “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.” This testament to greatness serves as an embodiment of timeless values and an everlasting source of inspiration for all who endeavor to surpass their limits and strive for greatness.
The emotional ceremony was attended by numerous Lakers legends and hundreds of devoted season-ticket holders, all gathered to pay homage to a man who left an indelible mark on the game of basketball. Vanessa Bryant took the stage alongside owner Jeanie Buss, former teammate Derek Fisher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and beloved Lakers coach Phil Jackson, each sharing fond memories and heartfelt tributes.
“I think of Kobe constantly, and I miss him and Gigi more than words can say,” expressed Buss. “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.”
The statue’s imposing base is inscribed with the words, “Kobe Bean Bryant,” paying tribute to his birth name, with his widely known nickname, “Black Mamba,” carved below. The triangular platform surrounding the statue is a nod to Tex Winter’s renowned triangle offense, a driving force behind the Lakers’ success in the 2000s. Accompanying the base are five replicas of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, symbolizing Bryant’s leadership and his pivotal role in securing NBA championships for the Lakers. Moreover, the base includes the box score from his historic 81-point game, along with a QR code enabling fans to relive the highlights of that extraordinary performance. A profound quote from Bryant himself is also featured, inspiring all who encounter it: “Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend.”
Vanessa Bryant beautifully encapsulated the everlasting influence Kobe continues to have on current and future generations of basketball players. “As I see today’s current generation of star players following 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.” Bryant’s transcendent legacy is undeniable, leaving an indelible imprint on the sport he cherished and inspiring countless athletes to push the boundaries of their abilities and embody the Mamba Mentality.
Kobe Bryant now joins an elite group of Lakers players and personnel who have been honored with their own statues in the renowned Star Plaza outside the Staples Center. Among the esteemed honorees are Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and former Lakers announcer Chick Hearn. This collective presence serves as a testament to Bryant’s significance and enduring impact on the franchise.
Starting Friday morning, the public will have the opportunity to visit the majestic statue unveiled on this historic day. A tangible manifestation of Kobe Bryant’s greatness, this monument stands as a reminder of his unparalleled basketball prowess, his unequivocal drive for excellence, and the profound impact he had on the game and countless lives. As Lakers legend James Worthy poignantly expressed, “I’ve missed Kobe so much, like everyone else does… But this unveiling of this statue is amazing because it almost comes alive.