Vanessa Bryant (41) remembered the NBA star with emotional words at the unveiling of a statue in honor of her late husband Kobe Bryant (1978-2020). The bronze statue was unveiled on Thursday (February 8) during a ceremony before the Lakers' game against the Denver Nuggets.
The statue now stands in front of the "Crypto.com Arena" in Los Angeles, where the Lakers play their home games, next to the likenesses of other Lakers stars: Elgin Baylor (1934-2021), Shaquille O'Neal (51), Kareem Abdul- Jabbar (76), Magic Johnson (64), Jerry West (85) and Chick Hearn (1916-2002) are immortalized there.
Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California in January 2020 at the age of 41. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and nine other people also died in the accident.
Widow Vanessa Bryant said at the unveiling of the statue, according to People magazine: "It goes without saying that today is a particularly sad day for us because Kobe and Gigi are not here for this moment that should be incredibly beautiful , and to celebrate Kobe's legacy." She continued: "Kobe had so many people who supported him from the beginning around the world. And this moment is not just for Kobe, but for everyone who has cheered him on all these years." She added that he was welcomed with open arms in Los Angeles and that "you were so important to him, our family and his legacy."
The new statue depicts Kobe Bryant, wearing his white No. 8 jersey and with his right index finger raised, walking off the field after his 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006. Vanessa Bryant revealed at the ceremony that the statue is the first of three that will be erected in honor of the Lakers star. Another statue will show Bryant in his number 24 jersey, which he wore in the second half of his career, while a third statue will depict Kobe and his daughter Gianna.
Vanessa concluded her speech with a quote from Kobe Bryant: "Leave the game better than you found it, and when it's time for you to go, leave a legend. And that's what he did."