'It'll almost have to be like Two-Face': Lakers legends Robert Horry & Jerry West opine on what the Kobe Bryant statue should look like - Exclusive
Well before Kobe Bryant would retire as a five-time NBA champion and one of the league’s top scorers of all time, it became inevitable the Lakers would honor him with a statue unveiling.
With the Lakers and Vanessa Bryant announcing on Thursday that Kobe would be immortalized with a bronze statue outside Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 8, 2024, the next decision seems more uncertain.
What should the Bryant statue look like?
“That’s an unbelievable question to ask,” said Jerry West, the Lakers’ former general manager that secured Bryant’s draft rights in 1996. “To me, it would be about his eyes more than anything certainly with the way he played the game.”
West, who has since become LA Clippers consultant, spoke to Sportskeeda about Bryant’s statue unveiling, the mixed emotions with his statue unveiling taking place nearly four years after his passing and more. Former Lakers forward Robert Horry, an analyst with Spectrum SportsNet, also spoke to Sportskeeda on similar topics.
Jerry West, Robert Horry speak about Kobe Bryant after his statue unveiling date is revealed on Mamba Day - Full interview
Editor’s note: The following one-on-one interviews were conducted separately. Both interviews have been edited and condensed.
How do you put Kobe’s statue unveiling in context with the rest of his accomplishments?
"Anyone who is a Lakers fan and looks back at his basketball career knows it certainly was expected. You knew it was going to come sooner or later. It’s an incredible tribute to one of our legendary players that has played in the NBA. I certainly would’ve liked to have seen it a lot differently during a much happier moment so that he could’ve been there to enjoy it."
"After a number of years, it still feels like it happened yesterday. Particularly when you read about it, you start reflecting back. Certainly, I’ve done that a number of times. It’s very worthy. It’s something you knew was going to happen. You just didn’t know when. It’s been amazing to me think about someone who had so much to give back in a different manner, even off the basketball court. I think I’ve told you more than once that his life off the basketball court to me was going to be just as great as his play. He had done so much when he left the game."
“He’s part of the second so-called dynasty that the Lakers have had. You think about Magic [Johnson] and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and you think about Shaq and Kobe and Kobe and Pau [Gasol], and that crew. It’s fitting. It’s very fitting. It’s always cool when you can think about the actual day."
"It’s so cool that it’s 2-8-24. I’m excited. I just hope and pray that I can be a part of the festivities. I was thinking when I heard the announcement on how sad it was going to be. You always want to give the people their flowers when they’re around. You know he was going to get those when he was around. But tragically, the accident happened. It’s going to be a very, very sad day. But it’s going to be a really, really joyous day. Anytime you talk about mixed emotions, this is truly going to be one of those times.”
What do you think the ceremony will be like?
“I’m sure it will be a great day to honor him and more importantly for his life-long fans and the people he touched in his life. I don’t know what the reaction will be to this happening. It’s so strange. I’m having trouble putting words together here because there are significant factors here with his time as a player and then his passing and the legacy he’s left."
"He will not be forgotten. It’ll be another opportunity for fans to see a part of his life that will live forever. There will be a lot of people there that won’t have dry eyes, that’s for sure. It’s hard to put into words. I still have so many memories of him. I go in my kids’ rooms. They no longer live here. They still have an incredible display of pictures of Kobe and my kids when they were smaller. The emotions don’t go away in this household.”
“You get your handkerchiefs and Kleenex. You’re going to have tears of joy. You’re going to have tears of sadness. But most of it will be sadness because you would’ve loved to hear what he would’ve had to say and the people he wanted to thank. That’s one of the things few people talked about – how eloquent of a speaker he was. He could talk with the Einsteins and the two-year-olds, and they would all understand him and appreciate his message. That’s the biggest part that is going to be missed. His wife knows him best and his parents know him best. But only the person that could put into words how he would want to say it is Kobe himself.”
What do you think Kobe’s speech would’ve been?
West: “A great question. I think he would’ve thought it would be a very special day and shared that when he first started playing that he couldn’t imagine this happening. I can’t even imagine how he would feel except being very proud that he was able to represent the city and more importantly, his imprint on the city. He appealed to everyone. This city is obviously multiethnic, but he appealed to everyone. They all had an opportunity to watch him grow up in Los Angeles. It was a special treat to watch the culmination of his career when he retired.”
Horry: “Long (laughs). Long and direct. The thing about him is that he appreciated all of the people that came before him and all the people that came after him. He’s a student of the game. At one point, he would’ve thanked the city of LA for all the love and support. There are not many guys that have played that long in one uniform. It’s probably never going to happen again. When someone is not happy, they want out and want to move on. Kobe went through a period where he wasn’t happy [demanded a trade in 2007], but he eventually stayed and battled through it.”
What do you think the statue should look like?
“That’s an unbelievable question to ask. To me, it would be about his eyes more than anything certainly with the way he played the game. I’m not putting myself in this category. But there are two or three pictures that sometimes I would see or my kids would show me."
"I always look at my eyes and they’re almost like a raptor’s eyes. If they can capture that, they will capture his image. I’m sure in the thought process of putting that up there, there has to be something defining about him that stands out to others. It’s something that some players have and others don’t have. He had it.”
(laughs). “It’s going to be the most unique statue there is. You think about Kareem’s skyhook, Shaq’s dunk and Magic’s passes. But whoever designs this one has a lot of pressure (laughs). That thing has to be perfect. You’ll have young Kobe on one side and the older Kobe on the other side. 8/24. It’s fitting. Since he has two jerseys retired, it will almost have to be like Two-Face. You have to think about the young and hungry Kobe as well as the wise and mature Kobe.”
"There are so many iconic moments that he has. He didn’t have one patented move. He had fifty of them. It’s going to be hard. If I had the choice, it would be something with his fist balled up. The picture that people love the most is of Kobe standing on the table with his arms stretched out [after the Lakers beat the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals]. But for me, anytime he had his fist pumped, it meant that he was fired up or the job was done."
What is your favorite Kobe memory?
“I think his relationship with his family and Gianna was really special. To watch the affection and love that was there between the two of them, there’s so many special things. I watched all of his games. When I have something to root for, I root for it. I was a big fan of Kobe’s even when I wasn’t working there [with the Lakers]. I thank my lucky stars I had a chance to be involved with him on a personal manner and to watch him grow as a player. I saw it all from the diaper changing to the unveiling of this incredible player.”
“My favorite memory of him is just sitting down and talking with him. I remember when I first got to the Lakers, he was asking me about Dream [Hakeem Olajuwon]. Kobe would always talk to me about Dream. I was like, ‘My name is Robert; nice to meet you.’ But he just wanted to learn the game."
"There were a lot of personal meetings. The basketball part was the basketball part. But when you get to know the individual and them on a personal level, that is always the best part. It was us sitting around, laughing and talking. The last moment for me is when I saw him a couple of weeks before he passed away."
"He was excited that Vanessa just had another baby. I don’t think about the basketball moments with him scoring 81 [points]. Or that he and I had a connection where I’d look at him and he knows I’m going to throw a long pass down the court for a bucket. There are so many things that we shared on the court.”
What do you think is the most impressive thing Kobe did on the court?
“His approach to the game. He was engaged all the time. There are certain times as his career went along that he seized the moment when it was time for his talent to really show. That’s what great players do. When you’re younger, you’re out there scrambling all over the place. When you really have a great grasp of the game, you will see things that are uniquely different from the time that young players come into the league. When they come full circle, you see an incredible amount of dedication and learning on how to compete and when to put your stamp on the game."
"That’s what great players do. They’re not just great players because they do something different. They know when to seize control of a game. There are not tons of them. But Kobe progressed as a player certainly like that. I had a chance not only to live it, but to see it when I was no longer there [with the Lakers]. There are defining moments in games, particularly in big games when upper echelon players like him capture the imagination of fans.”
“It’s his last game [when Bryant scored 60 points against Utah on April 13, 2016]. When I say this, I don’t mean this in a bad way. It was old, broken-up Kobe still doing it [laughs]. He showed, ‘I still got some juice when I need it.’ It was that moment. I didn’t get to see him score 81 [in person]. So the moments for me are the moments that you’re a part of. So I think it was that and when Shaq fouled out against the Pacers in Game 4 [of the 2000 NBA Finals with 2:33 left]. Kobe scored so many points in a row. He was coming at us saying, ‘Guys, I want to break this record.’ But it’s hard to pick one particular moment.”
What do you think this honor would’ve meant to Kobe given he’ll be among other Lakers greats [including West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Elgin Baylor]?
“He would look up there and say, ‘My goodness, I’m in special company with some of these guys.” Not me, in particular. But some of these other players served the franchise well. More importantly, they were iconic figures of the league during different eras when they were there. He was one of those guys. He was an unbelievably gifted player. It will be a feel-good day and a feel-bad day. When people go there, you’re going to see different emotions. I’ll be thrilled and I’ll also be sad. I think he would be very touched.”
“When you look at all of those greats, not many of them can have their favorite numbers on that day – 2-8-24. He wore No. 8 and No. 24. It’s fitting for a person whose career was all over the spectrum. But at the end, there was love and he was revered. You go back from the beginning and laugh."
:Everybody in the NBA hated him who didn’t play with him. He didn’t want to make friends with anybody, and everybody took that personally. You shouldn’t take that personally. If he has to punch you in the mouth, he has to punch you in the mouth. That’s what he did because he was about winning."
"And now, everybody are his friends. He had that killer instinct and old-school mentality. The new guys that were his age didn’t understand that. He was just that guy that was all about whatever moment he was in, whether it was being a dad, being a basketball player, being a father or whatever it may be.”