In the wake of NBA star Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday, artists have been moved to memorialize the former Los Angeles Laker in murals around the world. Many of the works also honor Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, one of the other eight victims in the accident.
The five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist had been flying to his daughter’s basketball game at the time of the crash, which had no survivors. Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and daughters Natalia Bryant, Bianca Bryant, and Capri Kobe Bryant.
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In the hours following Bryant’s tragic death, Art “Artoon” Gozukuchikyan leaped into action, taking his spray paint to a building on Ventura Boulevard in LA’s Studio City and painting through the night.
“As an artist, I thought we have an obligation to document what’s going on,” he told the Los Angeles Daily News. The artist’s mural shows Bryant in his Laker’s jersey, seemingly just having taken a jump shot, his daughter smiling behind him.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles, on the wall of Pickford Market on Washington Boulevard, Jules Muck took just six hours to complete a new painting of Bryant and his daughter posed cheek-to-cheek. The work reads “Kobe & Gigi Forever. Daddy’s Girl.”
Muck followed up with a second tribute painting at a Pico Boulevard marijuana dispensary.
Another piece popped up at the Priority Barber Club on Orange Avenue in Signal Hill. Artist Mister Alek painted Bryant in shades of black and white, offering a dramatic contrast to the bright yellow Lakers jersey and the dark purple background.
“Thank you for the countless memories,” he wrote on Instagram. “LA would not be the same with out you.”
Fans have also flocked to existing Los Angeles murals honoring Bryant. At the Shoe Palace on Melrose Avenue, mourners left flowers and candles, and affixed Post-It Notes with their tributes to Bryant on JC Ro‘s painting Mamba on Melrose. (The title comes from Bryant’s nickname, “The Black Mamba.”)
“For years this wall was just a local LA landmark that people enjoyed visiting,” Ro told the Los Angeles Times. “But with each note, each thank you, each moment of remembrance that is taped to the wall now, its meaning becomes more and more important in trying to help everyone heal.”
Basketball lovers also gathered in front of a Bryant mural located on Lebanon Street, one block from the Los Angeles Convention Center and a stone’s throw from the home of the Lakers at the Staples Center. It was painted by sports muralist Jonas Never in 2016, after Bryant announced plans to retire at the end of the season.
Levi Ponce’s black-and-white Bryant portrait painted for the now-shuttered Collective Lifestyle on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge Los Angeles became a makeshift memorial as well. The athlete’s death has inspired the artist to begin work on a new memorial, he told Univision.
Tributes to Bryant can also be found outside Los Angeles, including as far afield as the basketball-loving Philippines, where Bryant visited numerous times.
Manila’s most famous public basketball court, in the Tenement Housing complex in Taguig, is known for its rotating murals, organized by Mike Swift, which have featured NBA stars Michael Jordan and LeBron James as well as Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and Santa Claus. To honor Bryant’s death, the court has been repainted with a giant portrait of Gianna with her arms around her father. Fans were invited to paint written remembrances in white on the court’s black walls.
“This is our tribute to them,” Eddie Barbuena, coach of the Tenement’s basketball team, told ESPN. “We will always love you, Kobe Bryant.”
A second mural was also erected at Manila’s House of Kobe basketball court, where fans added handwritten inscriptions memorializing Bryant and Gianna.
In New York, Madison Square Garden was lit up in purple and yellow with a photo of Kobe Bryant on the giant LED screen during Sunday night’s Knicks game. At the nearby Bryant Park subway station an anonymous artist altered a sign to read “Kobe Bryant Park” in handwritten Helvetica, reports Gothamist.
In Boston, a black-and-white painting of Bryant with his daughter sitting on his shoulders appeared in “Graffiti Alley” in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Street artist Brandalizm created the artwork on a commission from the Central Square Business Improvement District.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, also paid tribute to the late basketball player, praising his on-court accomplishments as well as his generosity to the institution. (The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation has founding donor status, which means it gave at least $1 million to the museum.)
“In the very critical stages of building the museum, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant became founding donors, giving us the boost that we needed to keep moving forward,” said the museum’s interim director, Spencer Crew, in a statement. “Kobe also had the opportunity to visit the museum before its opening. He was so moved by the experience that he later donated his uniform jersey from the 2008 NBA Finals, the year he was named the league MVP.”
The jersey is not currently on view, but that may soon change. “We’re trying to figure out the best thing to do and we haven’t really come to a final conclusion just yet,” Damion Thomas, the museum’s sports curator, told the Washingtonian. Currently, Bryant’s photo is included in the institution’s basketball room, in a section titled “Style Matters.”
The biggest tribute may be yet to come. Some 2.7 million Bryant fans, including Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, and Usher, have signed a petition calling on the NBA to change its logo to feature Bryant. The Change.org petition—featuring a potential new logo by Instagram user @tysonbeck—was launched by Nick M., a 16-year-old from Vancouver, and has inspired graphic designers around the world to take a crack at a new design.
The current logo, designed by Alan Siegel in 1969, features the silhouette of former Laker and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, who became the Lakers general manager and who, incidentally, traded for the draft rights for Bryant. The 81-year-old, nicknamed “The Logo,” has expressed discomfort uncomfortable with the honor in the past: “I don’t like to do anything to call attention to myself,” West told ESPN’s The Jump in 2017. “If they would want to change it, I wish they would. In many ways, I wish they would.”
— Volqx (@volqx) January 28, 2020
Though Bryant’s passing is widely mourned, the sports star is also a controversial figure. He was charged with felony sexual assault following a 2003 encounter with a Colorado hotel employee. The case was settled out of court and charges were dropped, but in the post-#MeToo era, many social media users were quick to remind the public of the allegations after Bryant’s death.
The Washington Post suspended reporter Felicia Sonmez after she Tweeted a link to a 2016 Daily Beast article detailing the rape allegation. Sonmez, who also received death threats and had her home address published online, was reinstated after 200 colleagues signed a letter protesting the decision.
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