The Bronze Mamba Has Arrived

It’s a big day in Los Angeles basketball history, and not just because the team with the second-best record among current Crypto.com arena tenants is returning home after a relatively successful Grammys road trip and a three-game winning streak that, at least for now, has them in the consideration set for post-season success.  Whether or not they can pull off a trade that will be as impactful to their post-All Star break run as the ones they were able to pull off last year is secondary to what will take place later this afternoon, just before an important, nationally televised showdown with last year’s champions (and the team that swept them out in the Western Conference finals).

As USA TODAY’s Tyler Dragon reports:

The date is 2-8-24, numbers synonymous with Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. It’s only appropriate that the team decided to unveil Bryant’s statue on this date.  Bryant will be the seventh Lakers icon commemorated with a statue. He is joining Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Chick Hearn.

But save for Hearn, who passed at age 85 eight years before he received his honor, this is the first Lakers statue that will be unveiled for a deceased honoree.  And even though four years and 13 days have passed since he was tragically taken from the world at the age of 41 in a horrific helicopter crash, his loss and his absence are still felt by the team.

As The Left Angeles TIMES’ Dan Woike wrote this morning:

“He meant a lot to me,” Anthony Davis said. “Big brother, mentor, kinda started, I guess, my career alongside him in the Olympics, just being under his wing. Teaching me the game, teaching me about life and everything. It will be … a cool moment, obviously to see that, but re-living it again in a sense, so, I don’t know. Emotions will be high for me, for sure.

“For the Lakers organization, for his legacy that he’s left behind, it’s a huge deal,” said D’Angelo Russell, Bryant’s one-time teammate. “Well deserved. I don’t even think that’s enough. There should be a Kobe day, Kobe week, all that. I think he deserves more. So, that’s a start.”

“I looked up to Kobe growing up,” Austin Reaves said. “The Lakers were my favorite team, and just being able to put on the same uniform that he put on, play in the same arena in L.A. is special. It’s something I’ve talked about a lot. Like I said, Kobe was my idol growing up. I wanted to do everything like him.

And adding to the intrigue, as Woike also authored, is the fact that no one — save for a select few — knows how he’ll be memorialized.

“I don’t think he has one image that pops into my head that says, ‘That’s the one that should be immortalized on the statue’ because there’s too many memories,” LeBron James said. “Too many plays. Too many moments that he had.”

It’s awfully hard to keep anything a secret in this city, but the Lakers have.  Woike tried to give a few images of his own:

Whether the statue is Bryant ripping his jersey to the side or gnawing the collar between his clenched teeth, whether it’s a fadeaway jumper or a emphatic slam or whether it’s Bryant basking in the championship confetti with his arms raised, there’s really just one certainty about the ceremony. It’s, undoubtedly, still going to be sad.

The statue is being designed by the same artist who commissioned the one of his hero, Michael Jordan, that stands in front of the United Center in Chicago.  It will be right in the neighborhood of Magic, his predecessor in championship Laker glory.  It’ll be impressive one way or another.

I have my own personal favorite, one that reminds the world exactly why it’s the month of February that we are celebrating this legend on this unique day, not merely on August 24th.  Do remember that a Bryant who wore #2, his precious and already immensely talented 13-year-old daughter Gianna, was also prematurely taken from us on that tragic foggy January morning.

And honoring the career she never got to have along with the career he did is a further reminder of how far Bryant came in his lifetime.  He was not always a role model, not always an ideal teammate.  Ask some hotel workers in Denver what they may have thought of him.

For Kobe to emerge as a model girl dad, a passionate champion for ALL players and, indeed, a solid citizen was not always guaranteed.  And should be a reminder to anyone who has ever been challenged that it’s possible to evolve.

THAT’S legacIES I’d love to see immortalized.

Courage…

 

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