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A new Kobe Bryant statue has multiple errors. It's not the first memorial with typos

The Kobe Bryant Statue during an unveiling ceremony at Crypto.com Arena on February 08, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Ronald Martinez
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The Kobe Bryant Statue during an unveiling ceremony at Crypto.com Arena on February 08, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

You probably want to make sure a sculpture is accurate before it's set in stone. But that's not what happened when a new statue dedicated to Kobe Bryant was revealed outside the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles last month.

Typos in the names of former NBA players José Calderón and Von Wafer and the words "coach's decision" came to light after basketball journalist André Voigt pointed out the mistakes in a social media post that went viral Sunday.

"We have been aware of this for a few weeks and are already working to get it corrected soon," a Lakers spokesperson said in an email to NPR.

In a press conference last month, Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, said the 19-foot bronze statue of the Lakers star wearing his No. 8 jersey is one of three that were commissioned in his honor.

Here are some other instances of statue blunders and controversies.

The MLK Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. Critics objected that one of the quotes inscribed on the statue was taken out of context in a way that altered its meaning.
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The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. Critics objected that one of the quotes inscribed on the statue was taken out of context in a way that altered its meaning.

When the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was first unveiled in 2011, there was immediate controversy surrounding the quotation inscribed on the statue. Critics objected that one of the quotes was taken out of context in a way that altered its meaning.

The inscribed quote — "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" — was paraphrased from a sermon King gave at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968. It was shortened because of space limitations, and the chief architect felt the version essentially captured the essence of the original statement.

However, not everyone felt the same.

"The abbreviated quote lost the significance of that statement," said former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "Dr. King's family all agreed: They didn't like the quote as it had been abbreviated. Members of the civil rights community and many others we consulted with were all in agreement that the quote had to be changed. So we're going to [fix] it."

The quote was removed entirely in 2013.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C.

More than 100 of the 58,000-plus names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., were misspelled. Some were corrected in place; others were added to another panel.
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More than 100 of the 58,000-plus names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., were misspelled. Some were corrected in place; others were added to another panel.

When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was erected in Washington, D.C., in 1982, some of the names of service members — of which the wall contains more than 58,000 — were found to be misspelled.

"One tenth of 1 percent of the names — a little bit over 100 — were misspelled," said Jan Scruggs, president emeritus of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation. "Sixty-two of them have been re-engraved."

Some were corrected in place — the names are ordered on the memorial by date of death — but others were too long and had to be engraved on a different panel in order to fit. Some families asked that the misspellings remain so that the names could remain in the date of their death.

According to Scruggs, fixing the mistakes cost about $4,000 per name.

Shakespear(e) in LA?

In 2017, the University of Southern California unveiled a 20-foot-tall bronze statue of Hecuba, legendary queen of Troy, that included verses from Hamlet. However, the school spelled the playwright's name "Shakespear." Was it a mistake?

USC claimed it used the spelling intentionally.

"Over the centuries his surname has been spelled 20 different ways. USC chose an older spelling because of the ancient feel of the statue, even though it is not the most common form," said the university in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

A lot of variation exists in the way his name is spelled in early texts and legal documents, according to Martin Butler, professor of English at the University of Leeds.

"And that includes not just Shakespeare and Shakespear — but also "Shakspeare, Shakspere ... Shaksper, Shackspeare, even Shagspere," he said, adding that the version without the final "E" was used especially by 18th century editors.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Diba Mohtasham
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