Kobe Bryant statue unveiled outside Crypto.com Arena

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Laker legend Kobe Bryant joined a roster of greats memorialized outside Crypto.com Arena Feb. 8 with the unveiling of a statue designed to forever celebrate his impact on the team, the sport of basketball and the city.

But while only one statue was unveiled, Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, said there will actually be three monuments to Kobe outside the arena.

“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 — one wearing the number 8, one with our beautiful daughter Gianna, and one wearing the number 24,” Vanessa Bryant said.

Plans for the statue were originally announced last year on “Mamba Day,” which is celebrated every Aug. 24, or 8/24, in a nod to the two uniform numbers he wore during his career. The unveiling ceremony was held on 2/8/24 — again in a nod to Bryant’s numbers 8 and 24, while the No. 2 was worn by his daughter Gianna, who died alongside her father in a 2020 helicopter crash.

Bryant’s “relentless determination made his teammates push themselves too,” Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said during the unveiling ceremony. “He made everyone around him play better.”

Abdul-Jabbar — who also has a statue outside the arena — was just one of several Laker legends speaking at the event prior to the team’s game against the Denver Nuggets. Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson also took the stage, along with team owner Jeanie Buss and Vanessa Bryant. Magic Johnson and Pau Gasol were among the former players in the audience, along with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Buss talked fondly of Bryant’s 20 seasons with the franchise, noting his 18 All-Star selections, his MVP award and the team’s five NBA championships during his tenure.

“I have spent almost my entire life around sports and I can tell you I’ve never met or witnessed anyone like Kobe Bryant,” Buss said. “Everyone who watched him play the game knows he did things on the court unlike anyone else. He was a scrapper, a fighter, a winner. And he was also an artist, and he could bend the world to his will.”

She said another team once offered the Lakers five players in exchange for Bryant, but then-owner Jerry Buss declined, saying “Kobe was as rare as a faultless five-carat diamond, and five one-carat diamonds would never equal the same value.”

Vanessa Bryant said Kobe himself chose the pose for the statue that was unveiled, but it includes elements that she requested — including the names of all of his daughters tattooed on his arm, along with five championship trophies, nods to his “career accolades,” a QR code that can be scanned with a phone and links to highlights of Kobe’s career, and a triangle-shaped base, in a nod to Jackson’s famed triangle offense.

“It goes without saying that today’s an especially sad day for us, since Kobe and Gigi aren’t here for what it supposed to be an incredibly joyous moment in Kobe’s legacy,” Vanessa Bryant said. “I want to thank you all for being here showing your love and support for Kobe and our family. I’m thankful for all of the fans, including those watching and supporting from home.

“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. “And to the fans, here in L.A., this is a special city Kobe was so proud to represent. You welcomed him with open arms. … It brings me joy to see how much love you have for all of us. We love you back.”

Other Laker greats commemorated with a statue outside the arena are Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Jerry West and announcer Chick Hearn.

Bryant, known as “Black Mamba” during his 20-year Hall of Fame NBA career, died Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas that also took the lives of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

Both of Kobe Bryant’s uniform numbers were retired by the Lakers in 2017, the year after he retired — making him the first NBA player to have two numbers retired by the same team. He wore No. 8 from 1996 to 2006, then switched to No. 24 for the rest of his career.

Bryant played his entire career with the Lakers and became the team’s all-time leader in games (1,346), minutes played (48,637), field goals (11,719) and 3-point goals (1,827), among numerous team records.

He also is the Lakers’ all-time leader in points with 33,643. Abdul-Jabbar finished his 20-year career with a then-NBA-record 38,387 points, but only 24,176 were achieved in his 14 seasons with the Lakers. LeBron James surpassed Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring mark last year.