The Los Angeles Lakers have announced plans to unveil a statue of Kobe Bryant outside of Crypto.com Arena, known as the Staples Center during his iconic 20-year career with the team. The unveiling will take place on Thursday, February 8, 2024,
The move was announced jointly by the team and his wife, Vanessa Bryant, in a video posted to social media on August 24—also known as Mamba Day, in reference to Kobe’s two jersey numbers with the team, #8 and #24.
“Since arriving in this city and joining the Lakers organization, [Kobe] felt at home here, playing in the City of Angels,” said Vanessa.
“On behalf of the Lakers, my daughters, and me, I am so honored that, right in the center of Los Angeles, in front of the place known as ‘The house that Kobe built,’ we are going to unveil his statue so that his legacy can be celebrated forever.”
The unveiling is set to take place before the Lakers’ matchup with a longtime division rival in the defending champion Denver Nuggets, with whom Bryant battled in a number of high-profile playoff appearances. With the 18-time All-Star, the Lakers defeated Denver in the 2009 Western Conference Finals before winning their first championship with Bryant as their de facto leader.
Kobe would win five championships, two Finals MVPs, and one regular season MVP with the team before his retirement in 2016, and is widely regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021, following his tragic death in a helicopter crash the year prior with his daughter Gianna and seven others.
A devout Catholic, Bryant is known to have prayed at his family parish, Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, just before the airborne trip to his training facility in Calabasas, California. A temporary bronze statue of Kobe and his daughter has since been placed at the crash site.
Bryant’s bronze statue outside of the Lakers’ arena will be just the seventh in the history of the team, including his longtime teammate Shaquille O’Neal, as well as players Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jerry West, and broadcaster Chick Hearn.
Bryant’s statue, to be installed at Star Plaza alongside the others, was sculpted by Julie Rotblatt Amrany of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany, who was responsible for several of the Lakers’ statues and for the iconic Michael Jordan statue outside of the United Center in Chicago. The Lakers’ PR team has stated that Bryant participated in the planning of his statue before his passing, and that the monument will be the “first in a series of physical tributes to honor his legacy.”
Bryant will be one of only about 16 NBA players overall to have a full-body statue at one of their home arenas.
“There is no better place for Kobe to be honored with a statue than here, at the center of our city, where everyone can celebrate him and be inspired by his incredible achievements.”
Details for the statue unveiling ceremony are forthcoming, and tickets for the Lakers-Nuggets matchup that day are now available for purchase.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.