The Los Angeles Lakers had an uneventful, but that doesn’t mean it was a slow day overall for the franchise. The date of February 8, 2024—representing the once-in-a-century date markers of 2-8-24—holds a special significance to the franchise as it represents the two numbers worn by Kobe Bryant (No. 8 and No. 24) as well as the number worn by his daughter, Gianna Bryant (No. 2).
As such, the Lakers decided to use the occasion to celebrate the career of their late legend. On Thursday, ahead of their game against the defending champion Denver Nuggets, the Lakers unveiled the long-awaited statue of Bryant that will await fans outside of Crypto.com Arena. Laker royalty was on hand for the unveiling, as Pau Gasol, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and plenty of other team legends were in attendance. But the keynote speaker was Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, who joked before the unveiling that “for the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see. So if anybody has any issue with it, tough sh*t.”
The pose the statue takes is the same pose Bryant took as he left the floor following his 81-point game, which remains to this day as the second most points any player has ever scored in an NBA game. Fortunately for any Laker fans that aren’t fans of the statue, Vanessa broke another bit of big news on Thursday: this is only the first of three planned statues of Bryant that will sit outside of Crypto.com Arena. This first one shows Bryant wearing his first number, eight. The next two will show Bryant in his second number, 24, and with his daughter Gianna, who also died in the helicopter accident that killed Bryant in 2020.
Bryant became the seventh Laker legend to get a statue on Thursday. The first six were Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and announcer Chick Hearn. Bryant will be the first player to get multiple statues, though, just as he was the first Laker to have multiple jersey numbers.
Thursday is a night to celebrate Bryant as a whole, and that will be reflected when the Lakers take the court. They will wear their Black Mamba uniforms against the Nuggets, as they were inspired by Bryant’s nickname. The Lakers wore those uniforms several times throughout the 2020 playoffs where they won their 17th championship. Among those games was Game 2 against tonight’s opponents, the Nuggets, in the Western Conference Finals. Anthony Davis won that game with a buzzer-beating 3. He claimed after the game that he yelled “Kobe” upon releasing the shot. That is just one of many legendary Laker moments Bryant was involved in, and now, fans will be able to celebrate the team legend with the first of his three statues.