Tributes to Philadelphia-area native Kobe Bryant began appearing around the country after the former Los Angeles Lakers star was killed in a helicopter crash that also resulted in the deaths of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last week.
Locally, Lower Merion High School, from which Bryant graduated in 1996, held a tribute to him between basketball games on Saturday, and became host to a makeshift memorial — from which many items will now be donated. Several Philadelphia landmarks were also illuminated purple to mark Bryant’s passing last week, including the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Wells Fargo Center, Boathouse Row, and several Center City skyscrapers.
Now, Sylvester Stallone has co-signed an idea to give Bryant a similarly grand memorial in the late NBA great’s hometown — right next to the actor’s famous Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Stallone confirmed as much in a video posted by TMZ, in which a paparazzo asked whether a statue of Bryant should be erected next to the sculpture of the iconic Philly character. In response to the question, Stallone said “absolutely.”
“The world lost a great man and a great champion. I feel so bad for his family,” Stallone previously wrote of Bryant on social media. “Breaks my heart. Athlete, writer innovator, role model, #OneOfAKind.”
Some fans online were supportive of the idea of a statue of Bryant being built in Philly:
Others, meanwhile, recoiled at the suggestion, for variety of reasons:
Bryant spent his two decades in the NBA with the Lakers. However, some fans consider Bryant a Philadelphia sports icon due to his time at Lower Merion High School and his continued ties to the school. Lower Merion High’s gymnasium was dedicated in Bryant’s name in 2010.
Stallone has a similar connection to the Philadelphia area thanks to the Rocky movie franchise, and makes semi-regular appearances at the statue of the fictional boxer. Most recently, Stallone visited the statue in December to film a commercial for Facebook that aired during Super Bowl LIV on Sunday.
Stallone actually commissioned the famous Rocky statue, which was created by sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg, for the filming of 1982’s Rocky III. The piece was later moved between the so-called “Rocky Steps” and the Spectrum in South Philly a number of times over the years before being installed in an area near the foot of the steps in 2006, where it stands today.