The Los Angeles Lakers will unveil a statue of Kobe Bryant outside their downtown arena on Feb. 8.
The 17-time NBA champion Lakers announced the plan Thursday to honor Bryant, the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history and a beloved mainstay of the franchise for 20 seasons. Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.
Bryant participated in the initial planning of his statue after his retirement in 2016, according to the Lakers. He is the sixth former Lakers player and seventh team employee to be honored with a statue in the so-called “Star Plaza” outside the arena, which has been the Lakers’ home since 1999.
The 2/8/24 date of the unveiling is conspicuous: Kobe wore No. 8 and No. 24 during each half of his Lakers career, while Gianna wore No. 2 while playing youth basketball. The Bryants were flying together to a basketball competition with seven others when their helicopter crashed in fog in Calabasas, California.
Bryant’s statue will join those of Lakers greats Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and broadcaster Chick Hearn. Star Plaza also includes statues of the Los Angeles Kings’ Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Dustin Brown and announcer Bob Miller, along with champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya.
The Lakers say they are planning “a series of physical tributes” to honor Bryant beyond the statue, which is designed by sculptor Julie Rotblatt Amrany.
“Kobe Bryant was one of the most extraordinary athletes of all time and one of the most iconic individuals in the history of Los Angeles,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “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.”
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press