Ever since Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six family friends tragically passed away in a helicopter crash in Calabasas in January, the world has seen an outpouring of tributes for the deceased basketball player that have carried over into museums. In locations as far away as the Philippine House of Representatives, initiatives to honor in Bryant’s legacy have been launched; in the direct aftermath of the crash, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. put a 2007 picture of Bryant on view by the photographer Rick Chapman. Now, however, a more permanent move to honor Bryant has been made: the National Museum of African American History and Culture just hung Bryant’s 2008 NBA finals jersey on its walls permanently.
Bryant and his wife Vanessa Bryant were founding donors for the NMAAHC, and used their foundation, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, to make significant financial contributions to the museum in the years leading up to Bryant’s death. The player’s 2008 jersey will hang alongside LeBron James “Equality” Nike sneakers, as well as Jerseys from several different players. According to TMZ, the 2008 jersey was originally supposed to be mounted in March, but the process had to be stalled because of the coronavirus pandemic. “In 1996, Kobe Bryant became the first guard to successfully make the leap from high school to the National Basketball Association,” the text next to the jersey in the museum reportedly reads. “At the time, experts were skeptical that high school wing players could compete in the NBA. His success ushered in the modern era of younger players in the league.”
Of course, Bryant’s skill was such that he proved to be a motivating force for people in many different fields, not just basketball. And as far as art goes, Bryant’s death triggered an outpouring of artistic homage that ranged from murals to portraits to virtual exhibitions like the one held by Plastic Gallery in New York City in August.