Kobe Bryant immortalized with 19-foot bronze statue outside the Lakers' arena

by 24USATVFeb. 9, 2024, 3 a.m. 20
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers unveiled a statue of Kobe Bryant on Thursday, honoring their late superstar with a 19-foot bronze likeness outside their downtown arena.

The 4,000-pound statue depicts Bryant in his white No. 8 jersey with his right index finger raised as he walked off the court following his 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006.

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, said during the dedication ceremony that the statue is the first of three that will be created to honor the five-time NBA champion and top scorer in Lakers history. Another statue will feature Bryant in his No. 24 jersey, which he wore for the second half of his career, while a third will depict Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, who died with him and seven others in a helicopter crash in January 2020.

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“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.”

The first statue was unveiled at a ceremony attended by dozens of Lakers greats and hundreds of season ticket holders. Vanessa Bryant spoke at the ceremony after remarks from team owner Jeanie Buss, former teammate Derek Fisher, Abdul-Jabbar and longtime Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

“I think of Kobe constantly, and I miss him and Gigi more than words can say,” Buss said. “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.”

Bryant retired in 2016 after a 20-year career spent entirely with the Lakers. He is the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points, and his accolades included 18 NBA All-Star selections and two NBA Finals MVP awards.

His death has scarcely dimmed the shine of his presence in Los Angeles, where he remains a beloved icon of his adopted city. Bryant and his daughter are featured in hundreds of vibrant public murals across the Southland.

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