Mamba Forever: Lakers honor Kobe Bryant with first of three statues

Published February 9, 2024, 9:30 AMOfficial release

"Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend."

The Los Angeles Lakers today unveiled a statue of beloved Lakers legend and five-time champion Kobe Bryant at the center of Star Plaza outside Crypto.com Arena.

Representing one of Bryant’s most iconic moments in his storied career, the 19-foot-high, 4,000-pound bronze statue, sculpted by Julie Rotblatt Amrany, captures Bryant’s career-high and franchise-best 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006, when he led the Lakers to a 122-104 win. 

“For the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see,” said Vanessa Bryant ahead of the unveiling.

Wearing jersey number 8 with his right arm in the air, the statue of Bryant is surrounded by five championship trophies representing the five Lakers titles during Bryant’s career. Requested by the Bryant family as a personal detail for Kobe, all four names of the Bryant daughters are shown as tattoos on the statue arm, although three were yet to be born when Bryant accomplished his 81-point game. 

The triangle-shaped base of the statue, a nod to Tex Winter and Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, is etched with KOBE BEAN BRYANT “Black Mamba” and includes his many accolades from his 20-year NBA career. The base includes the reference photo for the statue, the box score from that 2006 game and a quote from Kobe Bryant saying, “Leave the game better than you found it. And when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend.”

“I’m thankful for all the fans,” Vanessa Bryant said. “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. And to the fans here in LA, this is a special city Kobe was so proud to represent. It brings me joy to see how much love you have for all of us. We love you back.”

Today’s unveiling date marks special significance as 2/8/24, honoring both numbers 8 and 24, which Bryant wore during his career, along with the number 2 his daughter Gianna Bryant wore playing basketball.

Fans, family and guests gathered in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the Hall of Famer’s legacy and witness the unveiling of the Bryant statue ahead of the Lakers home game against the Nuggets. Hosted by longtime Lakers broadcaster Stu Lantz, the ceremony included remarks from Vanessa Bryant, former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, Lakers Legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Derek Fisher and Los Angeles Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss.

“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,” said Los Angeles Lakers Governor Jeannie Buss.

“And we will share what he meant to us, and, as we do so, we will motivate a new generation to emulate the Mamba Mentality. And, might I add, I bet we will see photos of a marriage proposal that takes place right here inspired by the true love story of Kobe and Vanessa.”

Serving as a permanent reminder of Bryant’s extraordinary Lakers legacy, the statue is a place for fans around the world to come and remember his incredible basketball journey. A QR code on the base of the statue takes fans to a short tribute film directed by Antoine Fuqua, narrated by Denzel Washington and produced by Kevin Mann and Jake Pushinsky, highlighting every point made by Bryant the night of Jan. 22, 2006.

Bryant is the seventh Laker to be commemorated with a statue, joining Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Chick Hearn.

“People have a deep need to pay homage to those among us who represent the best versions of humanity,” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “A statue is a wonderful contradiction: 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 a 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.”

Bryant, an 18-time NBA All-Star, retired as the first player in NBA history to play at least 20 seasons with a single franchise. Known for his ‘Mamba Mentality,’ he helped guide the Lakers to five NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010) and earned Finals MVP honors in 2009 and 2010.

Voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, Bryant earned All-NBA honors 15 times, including 11 First Team selections, and was named to 12 All-Defensive Teams throughout his career, including nine All-Defensive First Team honors.

“He was often the heartbeat of our team, a guiding force that propelled us to greatness,” said Derek Fisher. “His impact extended well beyond victories. It was about shaping character, instilling a sense of pride and confidence in all of us that wore the purple and gold. In the realm of basketball, he wasn’t just a player, he was a legend.”

The Hall-of-Famer and two-time Olympic gold medalist stands as the purple and gold’s all-time leader in regular season games played (1,346), points (33,643), 3-pointers made (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws made (8,378), while owning franchise playoff records for games played (220), points (5,640), 3-pointers made (292) and free throws made (1,320). The Lakers retired Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys on Dec. 18, 2017. ?

“He was serious about the game of basketball,” said Phil Jackson. “When I came to the Laker organization, Jerry West had provided a room for Kobe to meet with me. It was private, prior to the ceremony, and he talked about how many hours he had watched the former team that I had coached play basketball. He was ready to step into that. He was ready to win championships. He was 22.”

The Lakers will commemorate this historic moment on the court tonight, wearing the Black Mamba uniforms, co-designed by Kobe Bryant following his retirement. Originally debuted during the 2017-18 season as the team’s first City Edition uniform, the Black Mamba jerseys feature a snakeskin-like print and an “LA 24” on the belt, all inspired by Bryant’s 20-year career with the purple and gold.

The statue was created by Julie Rotblatt Amrany of the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany. The development process spanned several years and included working with the Lakers and the Bryant family on research and design review before sculpting and casting the final form in bronze. Throughout the process, the artist used and recycled 550 pounds of clay and 425 pounds of steel.

During the event, Vanessa Bryant announced future plans for two more Kobe Bryant statues, including one with his daughter Gianna and one wearing jersey number 24.

The event outside Crypto.com Arena was broadcast live across Los Angeles on Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum SportsNet+ and streamed on Lakers.com to celebrate with fans around the world.

“I’d like to thank you all for joining us today as we unveil our twelfth statue and seventh Laker Legend at Star Plaza and to honor and celebrate one of the most incredible athletes of all time – and one of the most important people in the history of this city, Kobe Bryant,” said President of Crypto.com Arena Lee Zeidman.

“I never saw someone with Kobe’s ability light up a crowd, take a game on his back and change its outcome with his immense talent and sheer force of will. There is absolutely no one more fitting to be recognized here.”