Lakers unveil Kobe Bryant statue at Crypto.com Arena

The event's date of 2/8/24 reflects the jersey numbers of Kobe and his daughter Gianna.

Curt Sandoval Image
Thursday, February 8, 2024
Lakers unveil Kobe Bryant statue at Crypto.com Arena
In a moving ceremony, Laker greats and Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa revealed the new statue to the basketball legend.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In an emotional tribute to one of the city's most beloved sports figures, the Lakers on Thursday unveiled a statue of Kobe Bryant at Crypto.com Arena.

The statue unveiled at the ceremony depicted Bryant wearing the No. 8 on his uniform.

But his widow Vanessa Bryant said there will be three statues - the others with him wearing No. 24 and with Gianna, his daughter who was killed in the same helicopter crash that took Kobe's life in 2020. The others were not displayed at the ceremony.

"Because fans all over the world and the City of Angels loved Kobe so much, he will have three statues in front of the arena - also known as the house that Kobe built," Vanessa said.

Vanessa said Bryant himself played a role in designing the statue.

"For the record, Kobe picked the pose you're about to see," she said. "So if anyone has any issues with it, tough (expletive). It is what it is."

The statue includes details such as the names of Kobe's daughters tattooed on his arm, his five championship trophies and a QR code that fans can scan to watch Kobe highlights. The statue sits on a triangular base, a nod to the triangle offense developed by Jackson and Tex Winter.

The statue will be available for public viewing starting Friday morning at Crypto.com Arena.

Other speakers at the ceremony included team owner Jeanie Buss, Kobe's former teammate Derek Fisher, team icon Kareem Abdul Jabbar and former coach Phil Jackson.

In attendance in the audience were former Laker greats such as Magic Johnson, Pau Gasol and Robert Horry, as well as NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Also attending was former Lakers player and executive Jerry West, who played a key role in scouting Kobe in high school and convincing the team to trade for him.

A 5-carat diamond

Jeanie Buss recalled her father Jerry's admiration and love for Kobe, starting with the decision to trade for him shortly after he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.

"Trading for Kobe in 1996 set this franchise and this city on a journey that was beyond our wildest dreams," she said.

And Jerry Buss later rebuffed attractive offers by other teams to trade for Kobe, included a team that offered five players.

Her father explained "that Kobe was as rare as a flawless five-carat diamond and five one-carat diamonds would never equal the same value."

"I think of Kobe constantly," she added. "I miss him and Gigi more than words can say. But today I am 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."

Meeting with MJ

Jackson, who coached Kobe and the Lakers to five championships, told several stories that depicted Bryant's fierce competitive nature, as well as his admiration for and rivalry with Michael Jordan.

At one point, Jackson recalled he was trying to teach Kobe to pass the ball more to his teammates, rather than trying to take over a game singlehandedly.

"I arranged a meeting between Michael and Kobe, to give him a little impression of how to handle being in a restricted basketball system that relied on passing the ball to available teammates and wanting to go one on one with his guy in front of you," Jackson recalled.

"So we had a little meeting in the cigar room off the bar downstairs and Michael and I were sitting there and Kobe walked in after his shower and the press."

"He sat down and he said 'Michael, I can take you one on one."

"Michael said, 'Well, I think you might I'm 37 You're 22 right?'"

Prior to the Kobe statues, Crypto.com's Star Plaza had 11 other statues.

The timing of the event was important for the numerology: Thursday is Feb. 8, 2024 -- 2/8/24 -- a calendar date that not only includes both of Bryant's numbers, but the No. 2 that his late daughter Gianna, who also died in the crash, wore as a budding basketball phenom.