Posts Tagged ‘Gianna Bryant’

Heroes come and go, but legends are forever.
– Kobe Bryant

Kobe & Gianna celebrate the Lakers’ 2009 championship (Use the slider to compare photo & mural)

On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, CA, killing everyone aboard. The tragic news sent my hometown of Los Angeles reeling and left the world at large in a state of denial and disbelief. A year later, the shock of Kobe’s sudden passing at age 41 still feels all too surreal at a time when surreal has quickly become the norm.

Individuals across the globe paid tribute to Kobe and Gianna in the traumatic aftermath of their death; as a lifelong basketball (albeit Boston Celtics) fan, I did so myself here on the blog. Among the most visible and heartfelt of all the Kobe tributes, though, have been those we see while driving around Los Angeles, where Kobe played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers and where he became the only player in NBA history to have two jersey numbers (8 and 24) retired by the same team.

On walls across LA and surrounding cities, creative and colorful murals celebrating Bryant’s life and career have sprung up like flowers in the spring. After noticing one or two of these murals downtown during Los Angeles Marathon weekend last March, and as a huge fan of urban street art, I made it my mission to visit as many as possible. Which, as it turns out, is no insignificant undertaking. Because despite my own personal PTSD and my keen awareness that Kobe was SoCal’s favorite son and a global icon, still I underestimated the collective emotional impact of his death.

According to (the definitive online guide to Kobe Bryant murals), there are currently 325 tribute murals in the U.S.—247 in Southern California alone—plus 112 others in 30+ countries. This number is constantly changing as new murals are added and old murals are replaced. Many of these are located on busy streets like Hollywood Blvd, Melrose Ave and Pico Blvd, and if there has been a silver lining to the past ten months, it’s the opportunity this pandemic has afforded us to appreciate these murals sans LA’s notorious traffic. Many of the murals, like Kobe’s legacy, are (much) larger than life, and I’ve taken more than a few photos now while standing in the middle lanes of a normally bustling thoroughfare—the kind of move that, under normal circumstances, would swiftly remove me from the gene pool.

Given Kobe’s unique combination of single-minded focus, professional success, global popularity, and two-decade tenure with Hollywood’s team, it’s difficult to imagine another pro athlete whose untimely death would inspire such a heartfelt outpouring of grief, love and reverence. As @banditgraffiti (one of the artists featured below) notes, “In my years being in Los Angeles, I’ve never witnessed so much unity and respect from the community.” Granted I’ve only lived here for eight years, but I’d have to agree.

Here I share my personal top 50 Kobe Bryant tribute murals from the nearly 120 we’ve visited to date; click on any mural to view a higher-resolution image. I’d recommend to see hundreds more—some wildly impressive—from around the world. These murals celebrate not only Kobe, Gigi and the seven others aboard that helicopter who left us too soon, but likewise the incredibly talented artists and luminaries who live and work here in the City of Angels. They’re all shining examples of why Los Angeles is the most creative city in the world and why I love LA.

Kobe Bryant may be gone… but long live Kobe Bryant.

(Got a favorite mural of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!)

Murals of Kobe Alone

This group of murals focuses the spotlight on the man himself.

A tribute to Kobe’s otherworldly talent as 5x NBA champion and Oscar-winning producer
100 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @leviponce

The Japanese characters beneath “Little Tokyo” translate to “Los Angeles,” and the five purple flowers around Kobe’s head represent his five NBA titles
236 S Los Angeles St (inside), Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @sloe_motions

Kobe’s metamorphosis from High School All-American to 2x U.S. Olympic gold medalist to NBA Hall of Famer
408 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA
Artist: @gz.jr

Kobe celebrates one of his five NBA championships near the border of Beverly Hills
470 N Doheny Dr, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @bournrich

Kobe scored 60 points in his final NBA game, then concluded his farewell speech with “Mamba out”
490 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA
Artist: @jgoldcrown

An iconic pose reproduced on several Kobe tribute murals
501 W Arbor Vitae St, Inglewood, CA
Artist: @jacrispy_signcompany

This lifelike masterpiece celebrates Kobe’s fifth and final NBA championship in 2010
Grand Central Market, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @never1959

A pensive 18-time NBA All-Star watches over East LA
1060 N Fickett St, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @velaart

I can’t hear you, Los Angeles!
1626 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @artchemists

The man, the Mamba, and five championship rings
2200 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @velaart

Kobe and his five Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophies
2429 W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @sloe_motions

Sometimes the simplest statements say the most
2615 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA
Artist: @the_rev_carl

Kobe shows off his championship ring (Note the “Mambacita 2” tribute to Gianna in starry-sky styling)
5220 Valley Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @melanymd

“Forever Kobe” turns heads in Mid-City
5414 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @toonsone44

“Mamba Forever”: Kobe basks in the spotlight of his fifth and final NBA championship in 2010
6454 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA
Artist: @banditgraffiti

Look closely: An iconic above-the-rim moment immortalized in 413 triangles
7725 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA

One of many amazing Kobe tributes from @gz.jr, the man was 🔥 in 2020
7753 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @gz.jr

Located outside Black-owned Sorella Boutique, this mural remained untouched during the protests that followed George Floyd’s death
7829 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @paintedprophet

LAgends Never Die”
8495 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA
Artist: @muckrock

This mural evokes Michael Jordan’s iconic Nike “Wings” photo, with an infinity symbol in place of Kobe’s #8
11705 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA
Artist: @gabegault

Another photorealistic creation from Jonas Never, located near Staples Center
1336 Lebanon St, Los Angeles, CA (across from LA Convention Center)
Artist: @never1959

Murals of Kobe & Gianna

These murals celebrate Kobe as #GirlDad with daughter Gigi, who was herself an up-and-coming baller.

Guardians of the City of Angels
400 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @sloe_motions

A tribute so nice, we had to visit it twice
1251 South La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @mrbrainwash

“Heart of a Legend” on Watts Civic Center (Note the distinctive Watts Towers, shown in the top half)
Watts Civic Center (1501 E 103rd St), Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @pequebrown

In memory of Kobe, Gianna and the seven other victims, Orange County
512 W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA
Artist: @andaluztheartist

“The Mamba Mentality Lives On”
519 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @hijackart

Kobe & Gigi sport a version of the “Back 2 Back” jacket he wore (in his pre-Mamba days) after consecutive championships in 2000 and 2001
614 Mateo St, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @gabegault

“Legends Are Forever”
800 E 4th Pl, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @royyaldog

Moving Heaven and Earth
1053 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @enkone

The mandala adds a spiritual dimension to this “Mamba out” mural
1348 Flower St, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @aiseborn

Kobe Bryant, forever a #GirlDad
1361 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @sloe_motions, @sensaegram

Lost Angels” in Los Angeles
1430 East Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @samhue_91, @samcamsigns, @seandiaz_tattoo

The rim-as-halo effect makes this mural
1602 Cherry Ave, Long Beach, CA
Artist: @dannyssignslbc

“City of Angels” (though that wing hugging Gigi’s right shoulder is off-putting)
2450 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @artoon_art

The heart of a champion runs in the family
1921 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @alex_ali_gonzalez

My personal favorite #GirlDad mural, despite a tiny “oops”: the year on Kobe’s towel mistakenly ends in “0,” though the scene shows the two celebrating the Lakers’ 2009 championship
2471 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @downtowndaniel

The silhouette of Kobe (24) & Gigi (2) in their jerseys with backs to the viewer is a common theme
3515 Wilshire Blvd (Koreatown), Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @muckrock

“Rest at the End, Not in the Middle,” a collaboration of three artists
3601 W Garry Ave, Santa Ana, CA
Artists: @mikalataylormade, @tonycncp, @xistheweapon

“You asked for my hustle, I gave you my heart”
5325 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @

It’s all here: Kobe’s championship mindset, Kobe & Gigi silhouetted with halos, plus the Black Mamba
5745 Tujunga Ave, North Hollywood, CA
Artist: @nessie_blaze

Note the purple-&-gold outpouring of love & respect from bereaved fans
7753 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @banditgraffiti

“The Dreamer & The Believer”
7751 1/2 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @paintedprophet

Looking to the heavens one last time
11459 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA
Artist: @artoon_art

Murals of Kobe & Others

These murals includes familiar faces such as fellow NBA greats as well as rapper, activist and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, a fellow Angeleno who was gunned down in South-Central LA in March 2019.

“Bend the Knee” may be my favorite Kobe tribute mural with its portrayal of former teammates and rivals, complemented by the Black Mamba at bottom
5873 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @gz.jr

Kobe vs. Michael, a rivalry in triangles… and don’t miss this cool effect
1803 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Trading places: The legendary Vin Scully as Laker, Kobe as Dodger (unfinished)
1124 S Atlantic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @sloe_motions

“Leave a Legacy” celebrates the Lakers’ 2020 title, their 17th; Kobe sits atop the mural with trophy in lap
5522 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @gz.jr, @flaxworx

Kobe and Nipsey Hussle look out on Obama Blvd in South-Central LA
5791 Obama Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @jayo_v, @justcreatedit

Lakers legends past & present: Kobe dishes to LeBron on Hollywood Blvd
6544 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @artoon_art

Mamba out: Passing the torch on a championship tradition
10864 La Grange Ave, Los Angeles, CA
Artist: @gz.jr, @flaxworx

You have to dance beautifully in the box that you’re comfortable dancing in. My box was to be extremely ambitious within the sport of basketball. Your box is different than mine. Everybody has their own. It’s your job to try to perfect it and make it as beautiful of a canvas as you can make it. And if you have done that, then you have lived a successful life.
– Kobe Bryant

One month later, the words still don’t belong together, their syntax ghastly and incongruous, as improbable as a man suddenly floating upward toward the sky in defiance of gravity.

Kobe Bryant’s death.

Granted, if I were to cast my vote for anyone as “Most likely to defy gravity,” it would have been Kobe Bryant. And yet today, as the world looks on, 20,000+ mourners gather inside the Staples Center — known here in Los Angeles as The House That Kobe Built — to celebrate the life of Bryant and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, all of whom died tragically in a helicopter crash January 26 in Calabasas, CA, 30 miles northwest of where I now sit typing this.

Bryant’s untimely death generated shockwaves that continue to reverberate far beyond the sports world. Like so many others, my first response to hearing the news was total denial — there was no way it could be true, no way that Kobe Bryant, 41 years old and still in the creative prime of his life, could possibly be… dead? The news made no sense, and immediately I sought to dismiss it as the cruel hoax of a macabre, or at least misinformed, online troll. Kobe Bryant could not be dead.

And so, ever since that Sunday afternoon — an already gray and gloomy affair that quickly went dark around the edges — as reality set in gradually and painfully, I’ve been racking my brain trying to understand: Why has this affected me so much?

Why, for at least a week after the horrific news dropped on all of us like an anvil, did I feel so despondent? Why did I find it so challenging to shake off a heavy melancholy, as though I were wearing that same emotional anvil around my neck at all times? Why did I find myself shedding so many tears while watching tributes to someone I’d never even known or met?

Why would I find myself in the shower, my mind wandering off to some memory of Kobe as I quickly forgot which parts I had or hadn’t washed? Or likewise, while listening to a podcast on the run, my train of thought would switch tracks to some Kobe-related musing, only to realize moments later I’d lost the gist of the conversation. Why did I feel like a dog with 100 squirrels running around in its brain? And why do I still find myself stopping to take deep breaths as I write this?

For me this was never about hagiography — I don’t hero worship. Years ago, at a restaurant in the Bay Area, Katie and I saw Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, his wife Ayesha and his tiny (at the time) daughter Riley sitting in a corner booth eating dinner. And while other diners apparently felt differently, we were happy to leave them alone to enjoy their meal in peace. Besides, we now live in LA, where celebrity sightings aren’t exactly blue moon events.

So then maybe Kobe’s death was a devastating reminder of life’s ephemerality, which as I approach the end of my fifth decade offers no shortage of shout-outs. Or maybe it was the sudden loss of a larger-than-life talent, a hometown hero and a global icon. Or could it be that the shock of his death affected me more than, say, the self-inflicted death of artists like Kurt Cobain or Heath Ledger in large part because Kobe was one of the greatest players of all time in the sport I’ve loved since childhood? After all, I’d once envisioned a future for myself as an NBA-caliber athlete before a disappointing growth spurt and limited quickness extinguished that short-lived dream.

No, there was more to it still than all that. And at last I realized what “it” could be.

Kobe and daughter Gianna attend a Lakers game at Staples Center Dec 29, 2019 (© 2019 NBAE, Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

For Kobe Bryant everything he did, he did at the highest level. Every challenge he tackled got his undivided attention and his best effort. Halfway was unacceptable, and failure wasn’t an option. Because in his universe, the one that for 20 NBA seasons revolved around a singular, white-hot passion for the game of basketball, there was no such thing as good enough.

Kobe articulated the secret of his success in the simplest of terms: “I’m chasing perfection.” Coming from most other people, such a mission statement might elicit a roll of the eyes or a bemused smirk. Coming from Kobe though, it just made sense.

It’s a mindset that fascinates me, one I admire greatly — and it manifested itself in the gravitational pull Planet Kobe had on coaches, teammates, opponents, fans and even the media. Maybe more so than all the points, wins and championships over two decades, that single-minded obsession with being the best is his enduring legacy for his millions of fans around the world.

It’s also a mindset I can relate to on a personal level. No, I’m not the fourth-greatest scorer in NBA history or an Academy Award winner, but since childhood I’ve tended toward perfectionism in much of what I do. Because as the saying goes, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

If I have one guiding principle in life, that may be it. It may not always be the healthiest approach, but it’s served me well, first as a research scientist and now as an entrepreneur/small business owner. And like Kobe, two of my least favorite words in the English language are “good enough.”

It’s ironic, to be sure. As a lifelong Boston Celtics fan I once hated Kobe Bryant, first when he wore #8 and then later in his career when he sported #24 (both numbers now hang in the rafters at Staples Center). Hated what he did against my Celtics. Hated the five championships he won as the driving force of Boston’s bitter rival, and especially the 2010 title he won against my Celtics while playing with a broken finger. Hated to see his Lakers get the better of my team so many times across the years, as his Lakers slowly but surely crept toward the 17 championships my Celtics boast as the all-time winningest team in NBA history. (That 2010 title, his fifth and final trophy, was the Lakers’ 16th.)

For 20 years Kobe was the face of the enemy, playing a role that at times felt crafted by a Hollywood screenwriter. So naturally, as any passionate sports fans would, I hated him for it.

And he certainly gave his haters ammunition — but then again that will happen when you’re forced to grow up, emotionally if not physically, in the unforgiving glare of the Hollywood spotlight and the nation’s second-largest media market. Kobe hit rock bottom in 2003 when he faced a sexual assault allegation brought against him by a hotel worker in Denver; the case never went to trial, and the charges were later dropped. But it was during this time that Kobe created the “Black Mamba” persona to help him separate his personal and professional lives.

For many non-basketball fans, the 2003 allegation is really all they know of Kobe Bryant, and understandably they treat it as much more than an asterisk on his legacy. In the immediate aftermath of his death, some writers even made the questionable decision to focus their pulpit on that ugly chapter of his life. For my part, as unsettling as it was at the time, I no longer view Kobe’s career through the lens of that period, and I’d be disingenuous to act as though I do.

So no, Kobe certainly wasn’t perfect, a realization that only drove him harder. In his 20 years as a pro athlete, through a ruptured Achilles tendon, a fractured knee, a torn rotator cuff in his shooting shoulder and myriad other injuries that would’ve derailed most careers, he never gave in, never gave up, never stopped battling, never settled for less than 100% effort. He was uncompromising in his demand for excellence, both from himself and from everyone around him. He pissed off, intimidated, and drove away many a teammate with his relentless will and laser focus.

And he never cared. Because in Kobe’s world there was no such thing as good enough.

“If somebody’s not obsessed with what they do,” he once told ESPN senior writer Ramona Shelburne, “We don’t speak the same language.”

Kobe is the only NBA player to have two jersey numbers retired by the same team (John Shearer/Getty Images)

He made it clear he had every intention of taking that “Mamba Mentality” into retirement with him when, despite a recent history of season-ending injuries, he scored 60 points on 50 shots in the last game of his career. To put that in perspective, his 60 points was more than twice as many as any other Hall of Famer had scored in their last game. (By contrast fellow Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the league’s all-time leading scorer, managed just 7 points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan scored 15.) Because giving anything less than everything he had would not have been good enough.

Or, as former teammate Lamar Odom so eloquently put it, “That motherfucker is cold-blooded.”

On that same night he retired from professional basketball, Kobe thanked the fans, famously proclaimed “Mamba out,” and walked off the floor with a towel draped over his shoulders as he had so many times before. And for many pro athletes, that night would have signaled the start of a cold, hard reality check, of an unnerving transition into a day-to-day existence without the comfortable camaraderie of the locker room or the reliable adrenaline rush of game day.

But not Kobe. To him, “Mamba out” meant turning the page on one creative and productive chapter of his life and seamlessly moving on to the next. He was ready to reinvent himself, this time as a storyteller. It was an ambition he quickly turned into reality, when in 2018 he became the first pro athlete to win an Academy Award for his animated short film, “Dear Basketball.” (Matthew A. Cherry followed in Kobe’s footsteps this year, becoming the second pro athlete to win an Oscar while dedicating the award to Bryant just two weeks after his death.)

An Academy Award. And two months later, a Sports Emmy Award. Because if you’re going to be a storyteller, well then be the best storyteller. In Kobe’s world, anything less would not have been good enough.

Like an angry scab that’s been scratched away, his death lays bare an unsettling truth. If Kobe Bryant can die so suddenly and senselessly in the prime of his life, then so can any of us — today, tomorrow, maybe next week. As in everything he did, Kobe worked so hard to craft the lasting narrative of his life, to shape his personal legacy, and to tell the story he wanted to be remembered by once he was gone.

But the one thing he couldn’t craft was a happy ending.

And that, I think, is what hurts the most — that unlike so many pro athletes who happily ride into the sunset of retirement, Kobe refused to rest on his laurels, though he had every right to do so. Along with the eight other passengers on that ill-fated helicopter, he still had too much to offer the world. And now we’ll never know what might have been. Because all we’ve gotten is all we’re getting. And this time when Kobe says “Mamba out,” he means it.

Kobe Bryant was many things, but he was never complacent. And it’s both utterly amazing and deeply saddening to think that an 18-time NBA All-Star, 5-time world champion, 2-time Olympic gold medal winner, Academy Award winner, Sports Emmy Award winner, and father of four was just getting started on a second act that, by all indications, promised to be just as successful and entertaining as his first.

And that will forever have to be good enough.

Much love and respect Mamba, you’ll be missed… I know that somewhere you and Gianna are chasing perfection together, and that teacher has become pupil as Mambacita schools you on the intricacies of the fadeaway jumper.

Like Kobe, my fellow Stanford alum and ESPN senior writer Ramona Shelburne is one of the best at what she does, and I’d recommend her excellent profile on Kobe Bryant written in the immediate aftermath of his retirement.