David Beckham’s 2007 arrival to the Los Angeles Galaxy signaled a sea change.
A legitimate megastar had chosen to come to Major League Soccer, and even though his best days were behind him, it raised the profile of both the league and the sport in the United States.
On Saturday night, he was honored for his contribution.
The Galaxy unveiled a statue of Beckham outside Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., during a ceremony ahead of their 2019 opener against the Chicago Fire, which they won 2-1 thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s deciding goal.
Among the notable people in attendance were Beckham’s wife Victoria, former teammate Robbie Keane, former coach Bruce Arena, Galaxy and U.S. national team star Cobi Jones, and MLS commissioner Don Garber. Throngs of Galaxy supporters also showed up.
They weren’t the only big names who honored Beckham, however. The Galaxy also released a tribute video that opened with a message from hip-hop pioneer and Los Angeles native Snoop Dogg, and closed with a message (and joke) from Lakers legend Kobe Bryant:
Congrats my man, congrats,” Bryant said. “You’re now getting old. Older than me.”
He’s not wrong – Beckham is 43, while Bryant is 40 – but Beckham’s legacy will never fade.
Part of the famed “Class of ‘92” at Manchester United, which denotes a group of six academy graduates who helped the senior team dominate the Premier League in the 1990s and 2000s, Beckham developed into one of the most lethal wingers in the history of the sport. His mesmerizing free kicks and movie star looks captivated audiences, and he cemented his status as a global icon with United and Real Madrid before coming to Los Angeles.
But he brought more to the Galaxy than name recognition. Beckham scored 20 goals in 118 appearances and won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012. His move was also the catalyst for the league’s Designated Player Rule, which allows each franchise to sign up to three players outside the team’s salary cap and therefore legitimately compete for stars in the international transfer market.
Waves of aging talents made their way to MLS in Beckham’s stead, with some (like 2014 MLS MVP Keane and 2016 MLS MVP David Villa) working out better than others (Frank Lampard and Rafa Marquez). But the impact was undeniable.
And for that, the Galaxy dedicated a piece of history to him.
Joey Gulino is the editor of Yahoo Soccer and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.
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