Murals for Mamba: Kobe Bryant’s legacy honored through art
APP USERS: Click here to enlarge the Kobe mural interactive gallery
The iconic Kobe Bryant is one of the most beloved sports figures in history and his legacy continues to live on through those he loved and inspired.
Many Angelenos and sports fans worldwide grew up watching the Hall of Famer's lethal skills on the court with his Mamba Mentality, which inspired generations of athletes. The mindset transcends the world of sports and has inspired many to always do their best. In addition, his philanthropy made a tremendous impact off the court.
In addition to his endless NBA accolades which include five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and 18 All-Star game appearances, he granted wishes for hundreds of children for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and held numerous camps for athletes in underserved communities.
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Intelligent, passionate and determined, he began to pursue other endeavors upon his retirement from the NBA. At this stage, Bryant’s softer side was uncovered as a proud husband and father. He was often seen smiling from ear to ear discussing his daughters in interviews. Aside from his love for basketball, his media projects were created as a way for him to bond with his children.
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There are so many words to describe his legacy. Words like "amazing," "iconic," "historic," "tenacious" and "remarkable," are just some of the words that often come to mind. Yet for artists, sometimes one’s admiration is best expressed through art, as a mural is often worth a thousand words. To express their love and respect, there are several places across the Los Angeles area that are embellished in purple and gold, as numerous artists have painted ravishing murals across the city in his honor.
APP USERS: To enlarge the interactive map showing locations of all the murals, visit KobeMural.com.
A Healing Place
Jan. 26, 2020, is a day that rocked the world. As the Grammys red carpet was underway in downtown Los Angeles at what was then called Staples Center, also known as "The House that Kobe Built," the designer gowns and tuxedos were quickly overshadowed by fans in purple and gold. Basketball fans flocked to Staples Center, which quickly became the site of a makeshift memorial after fans learned Bryant had tragically passed away in a gruesome helicopter crash in Calabasas that morning. The wounds were further deepened upon confirmation that his daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, known by loved ones as "Gigi," was also aboard the helicopter.
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(KTTV: Kelli Johnson)
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Along with Kobe and Gigi, seven other lives were lost on a flight bound for a basketball tournament on what was a foggy morning in LA. Gigi’s Team Mamba teammate Alyssa Altobelli, along with her parents Keri and John died, as well as teammate Payton Chester and her mother, Sarah. Team Mamba’s assistant coach Christina Mauser was also named as a victim and the helicopter's pilot Ara Zobayan did not survive.
Jairo and Jennifer Ruiz from Port Lavaca, Texas, booked a flight to Los Angeles hours after hearing Bryant was gone. They felt they needed to be in Los Angeles as a place for them to heal.
"I told my husband we have to go. We have to be there in the moment in the city that’s going to really understand our pain," said Jennifer Ruiz.
Staples Center became a place of healing and the love for him expanded far beyond the arena. To grapple with the pain of losing an icon as well as celebrating his life, fans gathered at the murals dedicated to honoring Mr. Bryant across the City of Angels. Many of them also show Gigi painted next to her father, showcasing their beautiful bond. The aspiring WNBA star was determined to continue her father’s basketball legacy.
"Before social media, this was the original way to communicate to the public. It also shows me how powerful our messages can be on walls," artist Mario Ramirez told FOX 11's Hailey Winslow.
Gone, but not forgotten, the murals are just one of the many ways their legacies will live on.
Keeping track of the Kobe murals
Mike Asner, a diehard Kobe Bryant fan, created KobeMural.com as well as the @kobemural Instagram page. Asner took on the tedious task of mapping the masterpieces that sprawl across Southern California, as well as across the globe. The website also provides driving and walking directions for murals within the same vicinity in the Southland.
(KTTV: Kelli Johnson)
"My goal was to make it easier for fans to go and pay their respects to show their appreciation and of course to highlight these artists. There are so many artists around the world that have done amazing work," he told FOX 11.
Asner said some of the largest and most detailed murals can be found in Asia.
"There are some of the best murals in the world there. There are huge fans out there," he said.
RELATED: Stunning mural honors Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna on basketball court in Philippines
Asner was born and raised in Orange County, which is also where Kobe, Vanessa, and their girls called home. Asner said one of his favorite murals can be found in Costa Mesa, created by Efren Andaluz.
"He painted a portrait of every individual that we lost that day. All nine people on a restaurant sidewall so that to me is one of the most heartfelt tributes," he said.
Below are some of the muralists that have been featured on FOX 11:
Losing his sports hero similar to the way he lost his mother triggered unimaginable heartache for Michael Rivera.
He’s the son of the Mexican-American queen of Banda music, Jenni Rivera.
"The time, the weather, the tragedy, the energy in the air was eerily familiar to me," he recalled. "The day she passed, she was also in an aerial accident. It was a Sunday about the same time that I got the news. The weather was just as gloomy. It was almost like I was reliving December the 9th 2012."
An artist like his mother, the muralist channeled his pain through art.
"The last gift that my mom left me was floor tickets to the Lakers game. So. I was ecstatic. I got to be within feet of my idol, someone who really inspired me. It made Kobe even more special to me because he was in a sense, the last gift my mom allowed me to have," he told FOX 11’s Gina Silva.
On what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 43rd birthday, which is officially 'Kobe Bryant Day' in Orange County and the city of Los Angeles, muralist Ladie One revealed a massive mural in downtown LA’s Arts District. It was a ten-month process and is located roughly three miles away from what fans know as "The House Kobe Built." Staples Center was renamed the Crypto.com Arena on Christmas Day 2021.
The perfectionist, who has been painting for nearly two decades, says the inspiration behind the large mural was to show "Kobe on his home planet," which she calls "Planet Kobe."
"It’s basically a parallel universe of Los Angeles," she explained.
"I want people to be inspired by it. To embrace that Mamba Mentality and go hard. Whatever you’re doing, just do it to the fullest," she said. "Kobe Bryant to me was just an absolute hero. His work ethic and who he was as a person, his Mamba Mentality I really applied throughout my whole process of being here for so long."
Ladie One's massive Kobe mural can be found at 2222 E. Olympic Boulevard.
To this day, Bryant is the only person in history to have won both an NBA Championship and an Academy Award.
Artist Brian Peterson wanted to create a mural that would capture the legendary basketball star in a different light: Kobe as filmmaker and storyteller. Therefore, his mural shows Bryant in a tuxedo, as opposed to a Lakers jersey.
"Kobe modeled transitions so well and he’s transitioning from a great [in the NBA] and then landed on being a great in something else," he explained.
The Hollywood mural is located on Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave., steps away from where Bryant won an Oscar for "Dear Basketball," produced by his own media company.
Gone but not forgotten
A documentary called "Sincerely, Los Angeles," is in the works by filmmaker Patrick Green.
"Part of this story is about how tragedy can lead to triumph," Green told FOX 11 in a 2021 interview.
Bryant spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers and his loyalty is part of what made him one of the most treasured athletes. Though he is gone, those he inspired from the hardwood to the movie screen will make sure his 41-year legacy will not be forgotten.
FOX 11's Joe Calabrese and Elizabeth Ford contributed to this report.