Kobe Bryant's Fans Create Tributes Around the World to Honor the Late NBA Star
By Rachel McRady
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Kobe Bryant's fans are expressing their grief in tributes around the world.
After the shocking news of the NBA star's tragic death, memorials immediately started popping up for the late athlete. Bryant died in a helicopter crash alongside eight others -- including his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi -- on Jan. 26. His dedicated fans have yet to stop honoring and paying their respects to the former Los Angeles Laker, who touched so many people's lives.
Artist Levi Ponce, who painted the Bryant mural at 100 N. La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles, told ET that upon hearing the news of the athlete's death, he knew that he had to do something. "I painted him in 2016 when he retired and I didn't think I'd be painting him again so quickly, and definitely not under these circumstances," Ponce exclusively told ET on Friday. "But me and a group of friends who all paint, we got together the next day and we said, 'You know, we should do something,' and the stars aligned."
"I got a call from the owner here and he said, 'Hey, I would love to donate my wall,' and we wanted to donate the artwork. As a community, we were able to come together and create this monument. Not just to sort of express our angst and our anger at the situation, but also to provide sort of a community space for people to come together and to gather around Kobe and his legacy."
The mural took about three days to paint, and Ponce wanted to make sure that he portrayed Bryant's full life, not just his career as a basketball star. "When I first painted him, he had retired so I mostly did a Laker thing," he explained. "But I wanted to do something a little bigger than that. So we alluded to life outside of basketball as well and so we just wanted to paint a bigger picture with this mural."
And Ponce's isn't the only mural in the city. Many pieces from various artists have appeared all over Los Angeles in recent weeks.
Tributes started in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, also known as "the house that Kobe built," on the day Bryant died. As the 2020 GRAMMY Awards were being held inside, fans brought giant floral displays, handmade signs, and came out in their L.A. Lakers gear to pay their respects.
The digital billboard outside the Staples Center featured Bryant's image with an "In Loving Memory" tribute.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bryant family and friends, our Laker family, our Los Angeles community and fans around the world. pic.twitter.com/vG25iDHflW
ESPN writer Justin Tinsley tweeted, "I’m literally in STAPLES Center right now. Everyone has the same look of loss right now. We’re all zombies. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe what it feels like."
I’m literally in STAPLES Center right now. Everyone has the same look of loss right now. We’re all zombies. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe what it feels like.
That was just the beginning when it came to tributes. Less than 24 hours after Kobe's death, a mural popped up in Los Angeles at Vineyard and Pickford Street featuring Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, who also died in the helicopter crash. "Kobe & Gigi Forever Daddy's Girl," the mural reads.
Los Angeles City Hall also lit up in purple and gold, the Lakers' colors. Similarly, in New York City, the Empire State Building lit up in purple and gold and one fan changed the name of the Bryant Park subway stop to read, "Kobe Bryant Park."
Lights for a legend.
Los Angeles City Hall lit in purple and gold starting at 8:24 p.m. this evening in honor of Kobe Bryant’s storied championship career and in memory of Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and all who perished in today’s tragedy. pic.twitter.com/1una7Aj98Z
In Kobe's hometown of Philadelphia, a handful of buildings and bridges were lit up purple in the athlete's honor. In Newport Beach, California, balloons and flowers were left outside of the housing development where Kobe used to live.