On August 23, 2023, the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel lit up in purple and gold to honor the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant on his birthday. The Ferris wheel also displayed the numbers 8 and 24, which were Bryant’s jersey numbers during his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. The tribute was part of a citywide celebration of Kobe Bryant Day, which was declared by the Los Angeles City Council in 2016.
Who Was Kobe Bryant?
Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players of all time, who won five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards, one NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. He is widely regarded as an icon of sports, culture, and philanthropy, who inspired millions of fans around the world with his talent, work ethic, and passion.
Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started playing basketball at an early age and moved to Italy with his family when he was six years old. He returned to the United States when he was 13 and attended Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, where he became a star player. He skipped college and entered the NBA draft in 1996, where he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets and then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant spent his entire career with the Lakers, where he formed a dynamic duo with Shaquille O’Neal and won three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. He also led the Lakers to two more titles in 2009 and 2010, alongside Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. He retired from the NBA in 2016, after scoring 60 points in his final game.
Bryant was also a devoted family man, who married Vanessa Laine in 2001 and had four daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri. He was also a successful businessman, who founded Kobe Inc., a media company that produced sports content, such as documentaries, podcasts, and books. He also launched Granity Studios, an entertainment company that created animated films, such as Dear Basketball, which won an Oscar in 2018.
Bryant was also a generous philanthropist, who supported various causes and organizations, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, and the Mamba Sports Academy. He also advocated for women’s sports, especially basketball, and mentored many young female athletes, including his daughter Gianna.
Bryant tragically died on January 26, 2020, at the age of 41, in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California. He was traveling with his daughter Gianna and seven other people to a basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy. The crash shocked and saddened the world, and sparked an outpouring of grief and tributes from fans, celebrities, athletes, politicians, and leaders.
Why Is August 24 Kobe Bryant Day?
August 24 is officially recognized as Kobe Bryant Day by the Los Angeles City Council. The date was chosen because it represents Bryant’s two jersey numbers: 8 and 24. The council declared Kobe Bryant Day in 2016 after Bryant retired from the NBA. The council also honored Bryant for his achievements on and off the court, as well as his contributions to the city of Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant Day is celebrated by fans and admirers across Los Angeles and beyond. Some of the activities and events that take place on Kobe Bryant Day include:
- Wearing purple and gold clothing or accessories
- Posting messages or photos on social media with the hashtags #KobeBryantDay or #MambaForever
- Watching highlights or documentaries of Bryant’s career
- Visiting murals or memorials dedicated to Bryant
- Donating to charities or causes that Bryant supported
- Playing basketball or other sports with friends or family
How Did the Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel Honor Kobe Bryant?
The Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel is one of the most iconic landmarks in Los Angeles County. It is located on the Santa Monica Pier, which is a popular tourist attraction that features amusement rides, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. The Ferris wheel is known for its colorful lights, which change according to different themes or occasions.
On August 23, 2023, the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel lit up in purple and gold to honor Kobe Bryant on his birthday. The Ferris wheel also displayed the numbers 8 and 24, which were Bryant’s jersey numbers during his career with the Lakers. The tribute was part of a citywide celebration of Kobe Bryant Day, which was declared by the Los Angeles City Council in 2016.
The Ferris wheel tribute was organized by Pacific Park, the company that operates the amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier. Pacific Park’s marketing director, Nathan Smithson, said that the tribute was a way of showing respect and appreciation for Bryant’s legacy and impact on the city and the world.
“We wanted to do something special to honor Kobe Bryant on his birthday and Kobe Bryant Day,” Smithson said. “He was a legend who inspired millions of people with his passion, dedication, and excellence. He was also a loyal fan of the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel, and we are proud to celebrate his life and memory with this tribute.”
The Ferris wheel tribute was well-received by fans and visitors, who took photos and videos of the stunning display. Many people also shared their memories and emotions of Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who died in the helicopter crash.
One of the visitors, Maria Gonzalez, said that she was moved by the tribute and felt a connection with Bryant. “I came here with my family to see the Ferris wheel tribute to Kobe Bryant,” Gonzalez said. “It was beautiful and touching. I felt like he was watching over us. He was my hero and my inspiration. He taught me to work hard, dream big, and never give up. I miss him and his daughter so much.”