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Jewish Artist Creates Statue to Immortalize Kobe Bryant

As the lakers unveiled the much-anticipated statue of Kobe Bryant, there was one person whose heart beat faster than perhaps anyone else present: artist Julie Rotblatt-Amrany.
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February 22, 2024
Artist Julie Rotblatt-Amrany working on Kobe Bryant statue in her studio.

As the lakers unveiled the much-anticipated statue of Kobe Bryant, there was one person whose heart beat faster than perhaps anyone else present: artist Julie Rotblatt-Amrany. Commissioned five years ago to immortalize the beloved Lakers player, Rotblatt-Amrany watched the crowd around her, curious about their reaction.

”When they saw his face and the figure, they were like, ‘Wow.’ The reality of it all sank in. The place was packed with people and suddenly everything went quiet.” —Julie Rotblatt-Amrany

“In that moment, there was total silence and the realization that he was gone,” Rotblatt-Amrany told the Jewish Journal in an interview shortly after the ceremony at the Crypto.com Arena Star Plaza on Feb. 8. “When they saw his face and the figure, they were like, ‘Wow.’ The reality of it all sank in. The place was packed with people and suddenly everything went quiet.”

Artist Julie Rotblatt-Amrany at the unveiling event of Kobe Bryant statue

This wasn’t Rotblatt-Amrany’s first creation for the Lakers. Alongside her husband, Omri Amrany, also a sculptor, she has made sculptures of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Lakers owner Jerry Bass for the team.

She received the commission for the Bryant statue, “Black Mamba,” shortly before Bryant’s tragic death in January 2020. Rotblatt-Amrany was still in the process of sketching and designing the statue when news broke of the plane crash in Calabasas, where Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others lost their lives. 

Bryant could have chosen any monumental moment from his career to immortalize in a sculpture, but he chose one that was deeply sentimental for him. It depicts a high point in his career when, wearing jersey no. 8, he points his finger to the sky after scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006. It remains the second-most points scored in a single NBA game.

“For the record, Kobe picked the pose you’re about to see, so if anyone has any issue with it, tough s—,” Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, said. She added, “this moment isn’t just for Kobe, but it’s for all of you that have been rooting for him all of these years.”

Rotblatt-Amrany spoke with Bryant at the event and “she was all smiles and very happy with the piece … It gave me a very warm feeling that I pleased her and the Lakers.”

This wasn’t the first time they had met; Vanessa traveled to the artist’s studio in Illinois when the statue was nearly completed. “She visited when the piece was about 95% finished, and we spent three hours together. She wanted to make some tweaks to the face and requested that he appear a bit slimmer, reminiscent of his younger self, so I made those adjustments.” Rotblatt-Amrany incorporated the tattoo on Kobe’s front arm featuring the names of Kobe and Vanessa’s four daughters, while Vanessa’s name adorned the back of his arm.

Rotblatt-Amrany and her husband, Omri, who was born in Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov, were married in Israel and relocated to the U.S. with their son when he was just a baby. They established their studio, the Fine Arts Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany, in the Chicago suburb of Highwood, Illinois, where they have trained numerous sculptors over the years, including their son, Itamar Amrany, who is also a talented sculptor.

Among their larger-than-life sculptures, at Crypto.com you can find the monument celebrating the Los Angeles Kings’ Stanley Cup win, and sculptures of Gordie Howe, Gayle Sayers and Michael Jordan can be seen around the country. The 4,000-pound bronze statue of Bryant stands at an impressive 19 feet tall, making it the largest of the seven statues they created for the Lakers, towering three feet above Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and two feet taller than Magic Johnson.

During the unveiling, it was announced that the Lakers had commissioned two additional statues, one depicting Kobe with his daughter Gianna, and another featuring Kobe’s jersey no. 24. Rotblatt-Amrany will be working on the latter.

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