Kobe Bryant is considered by many to be the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time. When he retired in 2016, the team retired both his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys, but now, the team is planning an even greater tribute to the legend. On Feb. 8, 2024, the team will unveil a bronze statue of Bryant outside of Crypto.com Arena, the Lakers announced Thursday.
"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 the 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."
The dates involved are symbolic. August 24 is now officially Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles and Orange County because of the two numbers that he wore as a Laker, so it was only fitting that the announcement be made then, a day after what would have been his 46th birthday. His daughter Gianna, who also died in the 2020 helicopter accident that claimed Kobe's life, wore No. 2, meaning that Feb. 8, 2024 represents all three uniform numbers worn by the Bryant family.
Bryant will be the seventh Laker to be honored with a statue. He will join former teammate Shaquille O'Neal, former Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn, and fellow Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Bryant took part in the initial planning of the statue, according to the Lakers, but ultimately died before it could be built and unveiled. Bryant's widow, Vanessa, released a video expressing her gratitude for the statue.
"As you know, Kobe played his entire 20-year NBA career as a Los Angeles Lakers," Bryant said. "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 Kobe built, we are going to unveil his statue so that his legacy can be celebrated forever."
The Lakers will host the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Feb. 8 in what will be a rematch of the Western Conference finals. Now, one of the most anticipated matchups on the schedule just became a whole lot more exciting.