The Los Angeles Lakers unveiled the first of three statues in honor of the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. The iconic NBA star earned five championships in his 20-year career with the franchise.
The first statue has Bryant donning his no. 8 jersey with five Lombardi trophies at the base. In the no. 8 jersey, Bryant aided the Lakers “three-peat” in the early 2000’s. No other NBA franchise has been able to secure three consecutive championships since the Purple and Gold dominated the league from 1999 to 2002.
“People still have a deep need to pay homage to those among us who represents the best versions of humanity,” said Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “This statue may look like [Bryant] but really, it’s what excellence looks like, what discipline looks like, what commitment looks like.”
The Philadelphia native also scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in the no. 8 jersey in 2006.
Bryant’s wife Vanessa noted how he chose the pose of the no. 8 jersey statue. She also added details, including putting the names of their four children on the arm of the statue.
In honor of Kobe Bryant’s statue unveiling, the Lakers wear warmup shirts with “Bryant 24” on the back prior to their game against the Denver Nuggets pic.twitter.com/DC63iqdbJj
— Amanda Scurlock (@Amandtastic) February 9, 2024
“A few additional elements that I requested to be added to the statue are [Bryant’s] five championship trophies, [Bryant’s] career accolades,” Vanessa said. “The sheath QR code to watch [Bryant’s] highlights pertaining to the statue on your phone and the triangle-shaped base as a nod to Tex Winter and [Phil Jackson’s] triangle offense.”
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss described Bryant as a scrapper and a fighter.
“I think that is what my father meant when he said seeing [Bryant] play was like watching a miracle unfold,” Buss said. “An NBA team once offered to trade us five players in exchange for [Bryant] and Dr. Buss declined explaining that [Bryant] was as rare as a flawless five-carat diamond.”
The second statue will be of Bryant in the no. 24 jersey, the jersey Bryant won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. During that time of his career, the Lakers vs Boston Celtics rivalry would come to a resurgence.
Bryant, along with Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Metta Sandiford-Artest and Sasha Vujačić—all in attendance at the statue unveiling—battled Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen of the then Celtics. Legendary former NBA coach Phil Jackson reminisced on Game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals.
“[Bryant] was having a horrible game. He ended up being six for 24 that night,” Jackson said. “We kept saying to [Bryant] “stay inside the system … keep the ball moving, hit the open man, make the motion that we have to go through.” He finally got into it, we won the game.”
The third statue will be of Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Maria Onore. Both Bryant and Gianna along with seven others perished in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. Bryant was the head coach of the Team Mamba AAU program, Gianna was on the team.
He and Gianna would also be seen courtside at NBA and WNBA games. Longtime teammate Derek Fisher made note of how Bryant is a family man and a girl dad.
“His commitment to fatherhood was unwavering just as his dedication to the game was,” Fisher said. “On the rare days off that Phil Jackson used to give, [Bryant] still found the energy to go to Disneyland with the family on those days off.”
The evening of the unveiling, the Lakers battled the Denver Nuggets wearing their Black Mamba uniforms. Their warmup shirts had “Bryant 24” on the back.
The second and third statues will be unveiled at a later date. Lakers fans have since been flocking Star Plaza at the Crypto.com Arena to take photos of the statue.