Kobe Bryant is an international basketball star, and apparently his fame in China is far beyond what we ever expected, as a statue of the Black Mamba sits triumphantly in Southeast China.
Lakers Nation picked up on a tweet of this big hunk of Kobe-shaped metal in one of the strangest possible places.
The statue appears to be located outside the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts' Sculpture Museum, according to a follow-up tweet and photo from Lakers fan Eddie Robles.
If I had to nit-pick, this statue doesn't look very much like Kobe, at least when you compare it to the accuracy of some of the statues out in front of Staples Center.
There's a bald head, high cheekbones and the slightly pointy chin, but it doesn't capture the intensity that Bryant exudes on a nightly basis. That, plus everything from the neck down seems to be very light on details, including some barely visible detail on the jersey.
I've always found it a little bit creepy when sculptors make statues in the likeness of living people, but that might just be me. Overall, it's an awesome statue of Bryant standing in a predictable god-like pose as he basks in the sunlight.
This tribute to No. 24 shows not only how popular the NBA has become in China, but also how popular Kobe became as the face of the NBA for a good chunk of the 2000s.
The Mamba will always be one of the most popular players in the history of the NBA, but in terms of the sheer number of people who idolize him, he could be the most popular player in the history of the game, at least for the time being.
As of 2012, Bryant had the top-selling jersey in China for the sixth year in a row (no word on who topped that list this season), despite the rise in popularity of LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant.
We can go ahead and settle the Kobe vs. LeBron argument once and for all. Does LeBron have a statue in China?
Nope. At least, not yet.