Kobe Bryant joins Jackie Robinson, Michael Jordan and more among athletes honored with statues
Fri, Feb 9, 2024
NCAAF News (AP)
The 19-foot, 4,000-pound statue of Kobe Bryant in downtown Los Angeles is just the latest example of a sports team honoring a player with this kind of larger-than-life presence.
The Crypto.com Arena alone has statues of six other former Lakers employees, including five players. Bryant now joins that impressive list.
Some athletes, such as Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson, have more than one statue honoring them.
Here's a look at a few of the notable statues honoring athletes.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR/MAGIC JOHNSON
Since 2012, a 16-foot, 1,500-pound statue outside the Crypto.com Arena has shown Abdul-Jabbar attempting his signature sky hook as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar's former Lakers teammate Magic Johnson had his own statue unveiled outside that arena in 2004. There also is a Johnson statue on Michigan State's campus, as he led the Spartans to the 1979 NCAA title. The front of the arena also has statues of Lakers legends Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O'Neal, Jerry West, broadcaster Chick Hearn and now Bryant.
Indiana State's campus has a 15-foot, 1,900-pound statue of Bird, who led the Sycamores to the 1979 NCAA final before becoming a three-time NBA MVP with the Boston Celtics. Bird's Sycamores lost to Johnson's Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 national championship game before they went on to become memorable rivals in the NBA.
The Cleveland Browns honored Brown with a statue outside their stadium in 2016, more than half a century after his retirement. Brown, who was 80 years old at the time, said it was "one of the greatest moments of my life." The 11 .5-foot statue weighs over 2,000 pounds. Brown also is included in a statue unveiled last year memorializing Ali Summit, a 1967 gathering in Cleveland of some of the nation's top Black athletes, including Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Brown and Abdul-Jabbar.
There are multiple statues in various locations of Clemente, the Hall of Fame outfielder who died in a 1972 plane crash while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Clemente and fellow Pittsburgh Pirates stars Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski have statues outside PNC Park. The statue originally was outside Three Rivers Stadium before moving to the Pirates' current home field. Some other statues honoring Clemente are in the Bronx in New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Puerto Rico.
This bronze statue was commissioned by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and got unveiled outside the United Center in November 1994 during Jordan's brief retirement from the NBA after he had won three of the six titles he'd eventually earn for the Chicago Bulls. The statue is 12 feet tall with a 5-foot granite base and weighs 2,000 pounds. The base includes the message, "The best there ever was. The best there ever will be." The United Center also has statues of former Chicago Blackhawks stars Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.
KARL MALONE/JOHN STOCKTON
These famous Utah Jazz teammates both got statues erected just south of the Delta Center shortly after their retirements. Stockton, the NBA career leader in assists and steals, got his statue in 2005. Malone's went up a year later. Malone played college ball at Louisiana Tech, which unveiled its own statue of him in 2023.
JOE MONTANA/DWIGHT CLARK
One of the most memorable NFL plays of the 1980s came when Montana threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Clark to give the San Francisco 49ers a 27-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC championship game at Candlestick Park. The 49ers' current home stadium - Levi's Stadium - features two separate statues commemorating the play. One has Clark making the catch. The other has Montana raising his arms in celebration. The statues have been in place since 2018.
A statue honoring Robinson at McAdams Park in Wichita, Kansas, recently got vandalized, resulting in donations surpassing $145,000 on what would have been his 105th birthday. But the man who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier has other statues honoring him across the country. A 77-inch-tall statue of Robinson sliding home has appeared outside Dodger Stadium since 2017. There also is a monument honoring Robinson and former Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese in Brooklyn.
The soccer superstar had a bronze statue in his honor unveiled at Madeira, Portugal, in 2014. The statue was vandalized in 2016 with someone putting the name and uniform number of another soccer star - Lionel Messi - on it. There also is an airport named after Ronaldo in Portugal that features a bronze bust of him, though that bust got plenty of scrutiny on social media for its lack of resemblance to him.
The University of Tennessee constructed a "Pat Summitt Plaza" across the street from its home basketball arena in 2013 to honor the women's basketball coach who led the Lady Volunteers to 1,098 wins and eight national titles. The plaza includes a statue that features Summitt smiling with her arms folded, rather than showing her trademark glare. The statue went up 1 .5 years after Summitt stepped down as coach while battling Alzheimer's disease, which led to her death in 2016. Summitt also has statues in her honor in her hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee, and on the campus of Tennessee-Martin, where she played.
Although this one hasn't been constructed yet, the Miami Heat announced last month they plan to unveil a statue honoring Wade in front of the Kaseya Center later this year. Wade won three NBA titles while playing for the Heat."