First of 3 Kobe Bryant statues unveiled outside Lakers' arena in emotional ceremony


Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, members of the Lakers front office and others gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday to honor one of the greatest players in NBA history.

A 19-foot, 4,000-pound bronze statue of Bryant was unveiled outside of Crypto.com Arena following a heartfelt ceremony. The larger-than-life statue shows Bryant wearing his No. 8 Lakers jersey and pointing toward the sky. Bryant made the gesture when he left the basketball court following his career-best 81-point performance in 2006.

A sculpture honoring Bryant had been in the works prior to his untimely death. Following his retirement, he worked with the franchise during the planning phase of an anticipated statue, according to a 2023 news release from the Lakers.

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A statue of former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is unveiled during a ceremony at Star Plaza outside of Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2024. (Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports)

During Thursday’s ceremony, Vanessa confirmed that the Lakers great selected the pose for his statue.

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“For the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see,” she said. 

Vanessa also expressed gratitude for the countless number of fans who supported her husband, 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.”

The bronze statue was created by sculptor Julie Rotblatt Amrany.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter, Gianna, on Jan. 26, 2020. There were seven others on board at the time who also died in the crash.

Bryant’s statue joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Elgin Baylor, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jerry West and team announcer Chick Hearn outside the Lakers’ downtown arena.

“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.”

Vanessa Bryant speaks during a ceremon

Vanessa Bryant speaks during a ceremony for the unveiling of a statue for former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant at Star Plaza outside of Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2024. Joining her on stage are, from left, Jeanie Buss, Derek Fisher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Phil Jackson and Stu Lantz.  (Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports)

Bryant won five NBA championships during his storied career and retired in 2016. He spent his 20-year career with the Lakers. He was a two-time Finals MVP and was named the league MVP in 2008. He was an 18-time All-Star and ended his career with 33,643 points.

“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 Thursday’s ceremony.

“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.” 

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He was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in May 2021, with Vanessa giving the acceptance speech. “I wish my husband was here to accept this incredible award,” she said.

The Lakers wore the “Black Mamba” uniforms during Thursday’s game against the Denver Nuggets. The jerseys were co-designed by Bryant and paid tribute to his on-court nickname.

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