Kobe Bryant was part of Los Angeles.
More, he was a part of your family. For two decades, families in Los Angeles welcomed the Black Mamba into their homes three or four times a week for two-thirds of the year. We ate dinner with him. We drank beer with him. We partied with him. We celebrated with him. We suffered defeats with him.
We loved him.
Bryant getting a statue for his accomplishments on the court is a formality. He is the greatest Laker of all time, and his successes for the purple and gold warranted a statue long before he scored 60 points and walked off the court to sobbing, disbelieving eyes and dropped, smiling jaws.
But one statue isn’t enough for this man, who meant so, so much to so, so many million who did not personally know him–and even more to those who did.
One statue simply isn’t enough for what he meant to Los Angeles.
The story of Los Angeles cannot be told without Kobe Bryant and what he meant to a generation of its inhabitants. No other person connected with the people of this great city in the way he did. No movie star, celebrity nor any other public figure suffering an untimely death would have coated the city of sunshine with a dark cloud of sadness the way Bryant’s death has done.
The city isn’t mourning a basketball player. It is mourning the death of a family member.
Growing up in LA, everyone dreamed of being Kobe, and for those who didn’t want to be him, they wanted to beat him. Either way, growing up in LA meant Kobe Bryant was a part of your life. He was as unavoidable as the smog or traffic on the 405 Freeway.
Sick, injured or tired, no. 8 and no. 24 would seemingly always suit up and was always there.
After announcing that his 20th season would be his last, Bryant was asked how he wanted to be remembered on the court. He responded with two words: “talented overachiever.”
From the moment he arrived in Southern California, his talent was undeniable. His work ethic, though, made him iconic. No one could outwork no. 8. No one was more determined than no. 24. No matter the challenge, he would overcome it. You could count on Kobe, as a famous Nike campaign once perfectly proclaimed.
Through his work, he taught the city of angels that talent alone isn’t enough. He taught Angelenos the value of working while the enemy was sleeping, literally. Leaked details of his predawn workouts were so unbelievable that they sounded like Hercules would throw in the towel.
He embodied always working harder to become the best version of yourself and never being satisfied with success.
Even given NBA genes and being afforded a comfortable upbringing that provided him a clear path to becoming a professional basketball player, Bryant was determined to overachieve.
He did. And then, he achieved some more.
He wasn’t blue collar or white collar; his jersey didn’t have any collars. From the boardroom CEOs to the bathroom janitors, everyone connected with Kobe Bryant. He connected the city like few before him ever have.
Whether sitting up in the rafters in the 300 section or sitting courtside and touching the hardwood, Los Angeles cheered “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” all the same.
No matter the level of celebrity, Bryant always outshone the biggest stars sitting courtside in the house that he built. Bryant was the embodiment of how to succeed in LA. Talent alone wasn’t enough. You had to put in the work to succeed. After tasting success, he only grew hungrier and worked harder.
Bryant inspired and taught a generation how to succeed, not only on the court but in life.
For so long, he was the brightest star in the city full of celestial beings. One statue isn’t enough.
The first statue represents what Kobe Bryant meant to the Lakers. The second statue represents what he meant to the city.
One statue simply isn’t enough to convey what he meant to LA—rather, what he means to LA. After all, Bryant already has two jerseys retired inside Staples Center, so why not give him two statues outside Staples Center?