Kobe Bryant, renowned for surpassing expectations, showcased his iconic legacy with the unveiling of the Black Mamba’s statue outside the Los Angeles Lakers’ home arena. In a not-so-unexpected move, it was disclosed that the downtown L.A. property will eventually feature three statues in honor of the late basketball legend. The unveiling on Thursday — fittingly on 2/8/24, a symbol of Bryant’s two different jersey numbers with the Lakers, as well as his daughter Gianna’s number, an aspiring basketball player herself — was a lavish affair, and featured speeches from the biggest names in Lakers history, including Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and former head coach Phil Jackson.
It was a celebration that would’ve been the perfect one for Bryant to be a part of, but he, unfortunately, couldn’t be there… and instead it had to be his teammates and family members who took to the stage to speak on his behalf. Former teammates Derek Fisher, Metta World Peace and Caron Butler praised Bryant’s work ethic and his willingness to always put the team before himself, while Bryant’s widow Vanessa penned an emotional speech about her husband and their time together in L.A.
Vanessa also spoke to those who lost their lives in the Jan. 2020 helicopter crash that took the life of her husband and their friends and family, including those aboard the helicopter — passengers Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Sarah Chester and Copter Pilot Ara Zobayan. She said that they were “inspiring to us all,” and that Kobe always pushed them to be their best.
The unveiling was capped by Vanessa revealing the first of what she said will be three statues that will be erected in Star Plaza: one depicting him wearing No. 8, one of him wearing No. 24, and a third featuring him and his daughter. The statue was designed by Julie Rotblatt Amrany, and features Kobe raising his index finger in a pose reminiscent of the image of him celebrating a career-high 81-point game on Jan. 22, 2006.
In addition to the Lakers greats, the invite-only event was dotted with NBA legends and other former players in Metta World Peace, Jordan Farmar, Robert Horry, Jamaal Wilkes, Metta Sandiford-Artest, Sasha Vujacic, Matt Barnes, Mark Madsen, Larry Nance Jr. and the team’s former trainer, Gary Vitti. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, former WNBA players Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker also attended, along with a host of coaches and front office execs.
The statue will be available for viewing starting Friday morning, and will eventually be joined by a second statue that will feature Kobe and his daughter Gianna. Both statues will be on display throughout the year. The statue’s base is a triangle in honor of the famed triangle offense honed by Jackson assistant Tex Winter, and it also includes five replicas of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. It joins a group of other Lakers greats, including Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West and Abdul-Jabbar, who have their own statues on the plaza.