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Kobe Bryant statue unveiled at Lakers arena

The 19-foot bronze sculpture of the Hall of Famer and 18-time All-Star joins those of other Laker legends outside Arena.

(Gina Ferazzi/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Black Catholic history was made in Los Angeles on Thursday with the unveiling of a statue of Kobe Bryant outside of Arena, ahead of the Lakers’ matchup against the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

A full lineup of family, friends, former teammates, and Lakers brass gathered for the livestreamed ceremony honoring the late Hall of Famer, who tragically died at 41 with his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash in January 2020. 

Bryant spent the entirety of his 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, who retired his jersey numbers in 2017 following his retirement.

“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,” said Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, in remarks during the statue unveiling event.

“To the fans here in L.A., 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.”

The 19-foot bronze statue depicts the 18-time All-Star in his #8 jersey pointing to the sky, a pose he struck on various occasions during his career—including in 2006 after his historic 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors, and following the final game of his career, a 60-point output at home against the Utah Jazz in 2016.

His wife noted on Thursday that it was his choice to use the pose for his future statue, an honor he anticipated as the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer and a central contributor on five championship teams between 2000 and 2010.

Perhaps carrying a religious connotation—as Bryant was a devout Catholic—the stance is perhaps unconventional for an arena statue in that it does not depict Bryant performing any in-game activity like a shot, dunk, or dribble.

His wife shrugged off any such concerns.

“Kobe picked the pose you're about to see, so if anyone has any issues with it, tough shit,” she said. “It is what it is.”

The statue was designed by Omri “Ronny” Amrany and his wife Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, who also created the other statues outside of Arena. With that honor, Bryant joins Lakers players Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Jerry West, as well as longtime announcer Chick Hearn.

Bryant's statue, adorned with his signature “Black Mamba” moniker, is the first to be unveiled for a Lakers player after their death.

Vanessa Bryant noted that it will eventually be one of three depictions of Bryant outside of the Lakers arena, including one of him wearing his signature #24 jersey—the number he wore during most of his career—and a depiction of Kobe with his daughter Gianna, who also lost her life in the 2020 crash.

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

“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.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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