With Lakers both past and current among the many in attendance on Thursday, Kobe Bryant’s first of three statues outside of Crypto.com Arena was unveiled in a ceremony full of stories and laughs. The statue is a pose of Kobe walking off the court after his 81-point game, complete with a bandage on his finger and an armband above his left elbow.
The pose, as Vanessa Bryant revealed, was one selected by Kobe himself. And, as eloquently as you would expect, she had some thoughts on those who may not like it.
"Kobe picked the pose you're about to see. So if anyone has any issues with it... tough s--t."— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 9, 2024
Vanessa on Kobe's statue pic.twitter.com/vpIVKQFfKp
As noted, the biggest revelation from the ceremony was Vanessa revealing that Kobe would have three statues outside the arena: one in the No. 8 jersey revealed on Thursday, one in the No. 24 jersey and one with daughter Gianna.
Right now, there is no date set for when either of the other two Kobe statues will be unveiled.
The timing of the when the other two Kobe statues that Vanessa Bryant referenced - him and Gianna and him in a No. 24 uniform - will be unveiled is still to be determined, according to the Lakers.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 9, 2024
The list of Lakers, both past and present, in attendance was extensive. And there were plenty of non-Lakers watching along as well. Current Lakers Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves were in attendance, as was former Laker and Kobe teammate Larry Nance ahead of the Pelicans’ game against the purple and gold on Friday.
The list of former Lakers was as long as you’d expect, including Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Robert Horry, Metta Sandiford-Artest, Jordan Farmar, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Gary Vitti and many more.
With TNT broadcasting the game, Shaq was the notable player absent from the ceremony as he was in Atlanta on Inside the NBA. However, he still was able to share a Kobe story and his thoughts on the show in honor of the ceremony.
"He was always going to live forever"— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 9, 2024
Shaq shares his story of first meeting Kobe Bryant ahead of the unveiling of Kobe's new statue at the Los Angeles Lakers' arena pic.twitter.com/zLh8CiqcCb
The ceremony featured a who’s who of speakers, led by longtime Lakers television voice Stu Lantz. His speech was short but when you have someone who has seen as much basketball as Stu has, those words carry significant weight.
"He was a talent beyond talent" -Stu on Kobe Bryant— Edwin Garcia (@ECreates88) February 8, 2024
The first person to speak was Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, who shared stories about Kobe both of her own and from her late father and former owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
Jeanie Buss: “Today I am filled with joy [because] in the future I know fans will gather here…where Kobe gave us so many memories and we will share what Kobe meant to us…My father described Kobe as a marvel. He was, he is and he will always be.” #Lakeshow @SportingTrib— Lauren Jones (@LoJoMedia) February 8, 2024
Jeanie Buss said Jerry Buss, her late father and former Lakers owner, often marveled that “seeing Kobe play was like watching a miracle unfold.”— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) February 8, 2024
Next to speak was Derek Fisher, the man who played the most alongside Kobe in his career. And he brought the jokes with him as well.
"In his memory, let us continue to strive for excellence." -Derek Fisher— Edwin Garcia (@ECreates88) February 8, 2024
One of the best stories and moments of the day came from Phil Jackson, who spoke after Fisher. Jackson retold a story of his first tenure coaching the Lakers with a young Bryant in which he sat him down with Michael Jordan and, well, you can imagine how that played out.
Phil Jackson tells a story about setting up a meeting between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) February 9, 2024
“I could take you one on one.” pic.twitter.com/nROebeEcRz
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke next and, as you would expect, mixed a great bit of insight with humor in his powerful words.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "The first known statue was made 35,000 years ago which was about the same time that I entered puberty."— Oh no he didn't (@ohnohedidnt24) February 8, 2024
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "When I was on the Lakers coaching staff, I got to watch Kobe practice. I had never seen a player prepare with such focus and determination."— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) February 8, 2024
"This statue may look like Kobe but really it's what discipline looks, what commitment looks like, what love of your family looks like " - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar— Edwin Garcia (@ECreates88) February 8, 2024
The last person to speak was Vanessa, who shared some more stories about Kobe as well as details about the statue. In short, every piece of the statue was meticulously and deliberately planned.
Vanessa, on her favorite Kobe Quote: "Leave the game better than you found it, and when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend."— Edwin Garcia (@ECreates88) February 9, 2024
Vanessa asked for a QR code for the statue, a triangle-shaped base for the triangle offense, his accolades, and the 5 titles.— Edwin Garcia (@ECreates88) February 9, 2024
While it was another all-too-common reminder of Bryant’s absence, more importantly, it was a day to celebrate his career and the highlights, moments, and memories of those days.
And the good news is that, at the end of the day, two more statues mean the possibility of two more days like this.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.