Kobe Bryant statue draws hundreds to plaza outside Crypto.com Arena on day after unveiling ceremony

Jaysha Patel Image
Saturday, February 10, 2024

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- On the day after the Lakers unveiled a statue of Kobe Bryant, hundreds of people lined up Friday morning to view the 19-foot bronze likeness outside Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles.

Public access began at 10 a.m. for the sculpture, which 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 Thursday's 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 Calabasas in January 2020.

"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."

On the day after the Lakers unveiled a statue of Kobe Bryant, hundreds of people lined up to view the statue outside Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles.

Fans lined up in the early morning hours Friday for a chance to get an up-close look at the statue. One of them lined up before 4 a.m.

"Kobe means the world to me. Everything he stood for and everything he preached, I'm all about it. That's how I want to live my life. That's why I'm here," he said.

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 and throughout Southern California, where he and his daughter are featured in hundreds of vibrant public murals.

Even before Bryant's death, Lakers fans speculated about the pose or image that would be immortalized in his statue. While the announcement of three statues changes the argument, Vanessa Bryant said there shouldn't be a debate at all: Kobe himself chose the pose for the first statue before his death.

"Kobe has so many people that have supported him all over the world from the very beginning, and this moment isn't just for Kobe, but it's for all of you that have been rooting for him all of these years," she said. "To the fans here in LA, this is a special city Kobe was so proud to represent. You welcomed him with open arms and have been so important to him, our family, and his legacy.

"It brings me joy to see how much love you have for all of us. We love you back."

The statue's base reads: "Kobe Bean Bryant," with his nickname, "Black Mamba," carved below. The triangular platform - a nod to Jackson assistant Tex Winter's famed triangle offense, the bedrock of the Lakers' success in the 2000s - is surrounded by five replicas of the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

All throughout the city, you can find his smiling face on the side of prominent buildings and walls as more artists continue create new murals honoring the NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

The base includes the box score from his 81-point game and a QR code for fans to watch highlights of the performance. A Bryant quote is also featured: "Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend."

Bryant is the sixth Lakers player and seventh team employee to be honored with a statue in Star Plaza outside of the arena known as Staples Center throughout Bryant's career. He joins Shaquille O'Neal, Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Lakers announcer Chick Hearn.

"He wasn't just a champion," Fisher said. "He was unmatched. A rare specimen that left opposing players in awe, teammates inspired. He didn't just play the game. He defined it. That's really what it was like to be around him on a daily basis. He set the standard. He broke records. The legacy he leaves behind are foundations upon which current players and future players build their dreams."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.