The Lakers also wore special "Black Mamba" jerseys to honor their late teammate on Thursday
Kobe died alongside their daughter Gianna Bryant, 13, and nine other people in a Calabasas, California helicopter crash in January 2020.
His statue now stands in Star Plaza outside of the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, Calif. where the Lakers play their home games. His likeness stands alongside six other former Lakers: Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Chick Hearn.
After being welcomed with a standing ovation, Vanessa shared how this unveiling celebrated her late husband and the fans who supported him throughout his career.
"It goes without saying that today is an especially sad day for us since Kobe and Gigi aren't here for what is supposed to be an incredibly joyous moment and Kobe’s legacy," began Vanessa. "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. You welcomed him with open arms and have been so important to him, our family and his legacy."
She explained that there will be three statues in front of Crypto.com Arena — "also known as the house that Kobe built." One statue will include him "wearing the number eight, one with [their] beautiful daughter Gianna, and one wearing the number 24."
"And for the record, Kobe picked the pose you're about to see. So if anyone has any issues with it, tough s—. It is what it is," she added.
"As I see today's current generation of star players following Kobe's footsteps with huge scoring games. I know he would take pride in knowing that he is still pouring inspiration into the game that was so special to him," continued Vanessa.
Vanessa concluded the speech by quoting Kobe, sharing with the crowd, "Leave the game better than you found it and when it comes time for you to leave, leave a legend. And that he did."
A curtain then dropped to reveal the gleaming statue as confetti rained from the ceiling and applause filled the room.
For Kobe. For the die-hard Laker fans. For our family.
Mamba forever. pic.twitter.com/uExf0oEWgY
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 9, 2024
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The sculpture was designed by Omri Amrany and Julie Roblatt-Amrany, an Illinois-based team who has designed the sculpture for every Lakers statue currently standing in Star Plaza, per NBC 4. Vanessa and the Lakers organization also reportedly played a significant role in designing the statue.
To honor both Kobe and Gianna during the game, the Lakers wore special "Black Mamba" uniforms that were designed by Kobe. The uniforms feature black print that has a snake skin theme and drop shadows in the jersey numbers. Per USA Today, the uniform also has "LA 24" written on the belt and Kobe's retired numbers, 8 and 24 under the leg flap on each leg of the shorts.
The statue was unveiled on Thursday in honor of Kobe's two numbers during his 20-year career with the Lakers — 8 and 24. The date also honors Gianna, who played in the number 2 jersey during her basketball career.
“Since arriving in this city and joining the Lakers organization, he felt at home here, playing in the City of Angels. 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," Vanessa said in her original statement announcing the statue, which was released at 8:24 p.m. on August 24, 2023, to honor her late husband and daughter.
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