Sunday, February 25, 2024

Lakers honor Kobe Bryant with statue outside arena

The Los Angeles Lakers unveiled a statue honoring Kobe Bryant outside Arena during a ceremony Thursday. The bronze statue stands 19 feet tall and weighs 4,000 pounds.

Bryant is the seventh Lakers legend commemorated with a statue in Star Plaza, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, announcer Chick Hearn, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Jerry West.

The unveiling date was important to the numerology of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who were both killed in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020. Thursday is February 8 . 2024 – 02/08/24 – a date that combines Bryant’s jersey numbers (#8 and #24) and Gianna’s number (#2) when she played on the Mamba Sports Academy team .

Until the unveiling, the installation of the Bryant statue was one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets. The pose captures Bryant’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006, with his right arm in the air and his index finger pointing toward the fans. The sculpture is surrounded by five championship trophies, representing the Lakers’ five titles in Kobe’s career. The base of the statue is engraved with KOBE BEAN BRYANT “Black Mamba” and includes the box score from the 2006 game. The side of the base reads a quote from Kobe saying, “Leave the game better than you got it find. And when it’s time to leave, leave a legend. According to Vanessa Bryant, Bryant’s widow, there will be three statues of Kobe outside Arena: one with No. 8, one with No. 24 and one with Gianna.

Bryant retired in 2016 after 20 seasons with the Lakers. During his Hall of Fame career, he won five championships, two Finals MVPs, one MVP, two Olympic gold medals, made 18 All-Star teams, and had 11 first-team selections All-NBA. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Bryant on May 15, 2021. He is the first and only Laker to have two jersey numbers retired and hanging from the rafters of Arena.

Lakers guard Austin Reaves said the lights shining on Bryant’s numbers on the walls inside the Lakers’ practice facility are a constant reminder of Bryant’s greatness and impact.

“I looked up to Kobe growing up,” Reaves said Monday. “The Lakers were my favorite team, and just being able to put on the same uniform as him and play in the same arena in Los Angeles is special. This is something I’ve talked about a lot. Like I said, Kobe was my idol growing up. I wanted to do everything like him.

Vanessa Bryant and the Lakers organization collaborated on the design. The sculpture was created by Illinois-based couple Omri Amrany and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, who created all of the statues outside the Arena.

The ceremony took place under an oversized white tent due to the weather conditions in Los Angeles. It was closed to the public but will be open to the public Friday at 10 a.m. PST.

The Lakers host the defending champion Denver Nuggets, who swept Los Angeles in the 2023 Western Conference Finals, on Thursday night in what is one of the busiest days on the NBA calendar. Thursday also marked the NBA trade deadline, which the Lakers have stuck to, prioritizing their quest for a third star via a trade in the summer of 2024.

“He meant a lot to me,” Anthony Davis said Monday of Bryant. “Big brother, mentor, kind of started, I guess, my career alongside him at the Olympics, just being under his wing. Teaching me the game, teaching me life and everything. It’ll be… a cool moment, obviously to see that, but to relive it in a sense, so, I don’t know. Emotions will be strong for me, that’s for sure.

Los Angeles honored Bryant, whose nickname was the “Black Mamba,” by wearing his black and gold snakeskin “Black Mamba” City Edition uniforms against the Nuggets. The Lakers first wore these uniforms during the 2017-18 season and then again during their 2020 championship run in the Orlando bubble. The most iconic moment with the jerseys happened against Denver when Anthony Davis scored a game-winning 3-pointer in Game 2 of the 2020 Western Conference Finals.

“It’s completely normal,” LeBron James said Monday. “I mean, the guy spent two decades with the organization, won multiple championships and set a precedent for what it means to strive for excellence. … His achievements speak for themselves. Not only his inspiration, but how he inspires on the court, in the community and across the basketball landscape. So, I think it’s a beautiful moment, not only for him but for his family.

Required reading

(Kobe Bryant Photo: Harry How / Getty Images)

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