Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
LOS ANGELES — The Southern California community was in a state of shock late Sunday morning when reports began to trickle out that former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, along with his 14-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, were killed in a helicopter crash. An outpouring of grief and remembrance flooded social media — many posted clips from his remarkable NBA career, and some shared videos from a makeshift vigil outside of the Staples Center, his home court for 20 years. As basketball aficionados, athletes, and Kobe fans contemplated the player’s legacy, a Washington Post staffer also tweeted a Daily Beast article about his 2003 assault case that led her to be suspended by the paper, and then subsequently reinstated.
In Los Angeles, many have flocked to murals that commemorate Bryant, laying flowers and posting photos of the street art that has created public shrines. Los Angeles has long been a community rich with street art, and it has seen a renaissance after a ban on murals was lifted in 2013. The use of murals as a public expression of grief is not unfamiliar to Angelenos — just last year several new murals commemorating the rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle popped up across the city after his untimely death in March. Bryant himself was already the inspiration for a few even before his passing, but in the days since the crash, new murals have already popped up across the city, this time commemorating both Bryant and his daughter.
In Studio City, mural artist Art Gozukuchikyan, known as ArToon, painted his memorial on Ventura Boulevard on the side of the car rental VEM Exotic Rentals.
Jules Muck, who works under the name Muckrock, already has two murals up this week. “I’m blessed to be of service to my community in this time of grief,” Muck wrote Hyperallergic. “I hope these murals help provide a space for comfort and solidarity as we move through this tragedy.”
The first, with both Kobe and Gianna, went up on the side of Pickford Market in Mid-City.
The Pickford Market wall was a space Muck shared with fellow artist Mario Ramirez, a.k.a. MR79, and on Thursday morning Ramirez was there putting some finishing touches on his portions of the mural. “It broke my heart when I heard what happened,” said Lopez. “It hurt even more when I heard his daughter [was among the victims].” Lopez says that he and Muck are looking to collaborate on another mural nearby.
The second Muckrock mural adorns the Pink Dot liquor store in West Hollywood, the same store where Jimmy Fallon and a then-underage Bryant went on a beer run.
Down in Long Beach, Mister Alek went to work on a mural on the side of his friend’s barbershop. “He was my biggest inspiration growing up,” said the artist. “Painting helps me deal with anything in life, so painting a portrait of Kobe helps me deal with [the tragedy].” Alek said he’s currently working on another mural at Melrose and Fairfax.
Existing murals, including one just outside of the Staples Center, have also become places for fans to share their grief over Bryant’s passing.
In a testament to the popularity of Bryant and the NBA, murals, both painted and otherwise, have sprung up in locales far and wide. A new work by Brandalizm popped up in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s “Graffiti Alley.”
In Livermore, California, a 115-foot tribute to the superstar made of grass was unveiled.
— Livermore Patch (@LivPatch) January 30, 2020
Students in Jilin, China (a country where their reverence for Bryant may rival that of Los Angeles) carved a tribute in snow on their school’s basketball courts. Some have affectionately dubbed the tribute “Snowbe.”
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) December 7, 2015