A bronze statue of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna was placed at the southern California site where the two were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash 2 years ago.
Artist Dan Medina hauled the 150-pound sculpture up the Calabassas hill to the location where Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter died on January 26, 2020. Medina placed the sculpture there for the day on the 2-year anniversary, allowing fans to have a focal point for their memories of the NBA star.
A helicopter carrying Bryant, Gianna, and seven others crashed shortly after taking off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County around 9 a.m. Visibility was poor that day, and a National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that to be a major cause of the crash.
Bryant is sculpted in his Lakers uniform with his arm around his daughter, also wearing her basketball uniform. They were on their way to a youth basketball tournament on the morning of the crash, and most of the other victims were teammates, coaches, and parents of the players.
“You come up here and it is kind of emotional,” Medina told the Los Angeles Times. “The flowers, the jerseys, the hats blow away, and I think we need something more permanent.”
Medina brought his sculpture up the mountain just for the day since having it at the location any longer would require permits. He said he is working on a life-size sculpture of Bryant and his daughter that he hopes will be placed somewhere near the Lakers arena or practice facility.
Fans often make the trek up the hillside to the crash site, and on the anniversary, many were surprised and grateful to see the statue.
“My son and I met Kobe, and I told my son it would be something he would remember for the rest of his life,” said Jesus Avila, 45, who visited the location in his Kobe Bryant Lakers jersey. He placed a photo from that day on a makeshift memorial around the statue.
“I came here to celebrate his life, not to mourn,” Avila said.
In addition to the Bryants, the statue base has the inscription “heroes come and go but legends are forever,” along with the names of the other crash victims — Christina Mauser; Payton and Sarah Chester; John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli; and pilot Ara Zobayan.
“This is all on my own, no one asked me to do it,” Medina told Reuters of the 4-foot statue. “On this day, the second anniversary of the accident, I decided to bring it up from sunrise to sunset and create a bit of a healing process for fans.”
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