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How Los Angeles is remembering Kobe Bryant

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It has been nearly a month since a helicopter crashed into a Calabasas hill on a foggy Sunday morning. On board were family members, friends, coaches, parents and their children, including Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

Disbelief spread nearly as quickly as news of the crash. People set to mourning collectively and individually. Paint dried, ink settled into skin, and a city speckled purple and gold.

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Public memorial

Fans gather outside Staples Center
Fans gather outside Staples Center on Jan. 26 to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Twenty-thousand mourners will fill downtown Staples Center — “the house that Kobe built” — on Monday at 10 a.m. to celebrate the lives of the 41-year-old Lakers star and his 13-year-old daughter. There is a powerful symbolism in having the public memorial on Feb. 24.

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Outside the arena, screens will go dark, and the space around LA Live will be barricaded to those who do not have tickets to the sold-out memorial. Officials have advised the public to stay away from the vicinity. Those who didn’t receive a ticket to the memorial can still watch from home or elsewhere.

The event will cap weeks of tributes across the city following the Jan. 26 crash that also killed the helicopter pilot and parents, players and a coach on Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy basketball team.

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Private memorial

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna at a women’s basketball game between Long Beach State and Oregon on Dec. 14.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Bryant and his daughter were buried in a private family service near the family’s Orange County home, according to death certificates.

A death certificate for Bryant states that his “final disposition” occurred Feb. 7 at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar.

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Makeshift memorials

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Murals

Kobe Bryant mural
Frankie Becerra sports his Kobe Bryant jersey as he views the Watts Kobe Bryant Memorial Mural, created by artist PeQue Brown. The artist said the mural is not finished and is raising money to complete it.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Since Bryant’s death, murals have popped up around the world — in New York, Massachusetts and Texas, and in the Philippines. Beneath them, fans have placed candles, flowers and personalized notes.

L.A. is a city of murals, its walls decorated with colorful portraits of La Virgen de Guadalupe, Martin Luther King Jr., Frida Kahlo and Nipsey Hussle. Within 24 hours of the fatal helicopter crash, businesses called on muralists to paint portraits of Bryant. In some cases, muralists sought out the walls themselves.

A mural in Burbank
Artists Arthur Akopyan and Haibert Sarkissian created a mural in Burbank that commemorates Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and Nipsey Hussle.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

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Tattoos

Tattoo
Artist Jose Guijosa tattoos custom artwork on Anthony Lozano on Feb. 5 in Los Angeles. Lozano is one of many of Guijosa’s clients paying tribute to Kobe Bryant with ink.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Throughout Southern California, tattoo artists have reported booming demand for ink memorializing Bryant — from intricate, original designs to quick classics: Bryant’s jersey number, his shoe logo, his signature. One shop said its business had tripled. Another artist said he is booked for the rest of the year, and the fervor far outweighs any other cultural moment he has seen in his nine-year career.

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Lakers’ pregame tribute

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Before the Lakers played their first game since Bryant’s death on Jan. 31, the lights in Staples Center dimmed. The chants rang out. Ko-be! Ko-be! Then, M-V-P! M-V-P! That was to be expected, but the heartfelt moments that followed came in waves, inducing unpredictable flashes of feeling in the building and throughout Southern California.

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Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist

Ben Hong
Ben Hong plays the cello during the Lakers ceremony to honor Kobe Bryant at Staples Center Jan. 31.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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When he was summoned to Staples Center to play “Hallelujah” on the cello for the pregame memorial ceremonies, Ben Hong of the Los Angeles Philharmonic faced obstacles in fortissimo.

By soulfully playing the iconic ballad underneath the giant scoreboard showing video highlights of Bryant’s career, Hong hit just the right notes in processing the pain for the 19,000 fans in the arena and millions worldwide.

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Mariachis

Amid a massive crowd outside Staples Center in January, mariachis gathered to honor the nine lives lost with a poignant rendition of “Amor Eterno,” a goodbye ballad by the late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel.

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Fellow athletes

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Pau Gasol came to the Lakers in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2007-08 season and quickly clicked with Bryant, both on and off the court.

Raised in Europe, Bryant had much in common with the Spanish center/forward. Gasol says they were “brothers,” but the kind of sibling who knew how to push his buttons — and it worked. Gasol credits Bryant and his blunt “Mamba mentality” for pushing him to his greatest professional heights.

Kawhi Leonard represents a generation of all-star players who were mentored by Bryant. Since he retired, Bryant took time to work out with Leonard, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic. Bryant worked out with Leonard and George last summer at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks and felt a unique connection to the duo who grew up in Southern California and looked up to him.

Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard dons a Superman outfit with No. 24 instead of the “S” on his chest during the Slam Dunk Contest.
(Stacy Revere / Getty Images)

During the Slam Dunk Contest on Feb. 15, Dwight Howard’s dunk turned into a tribute for his former teammate.

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson never met Bryant. It wasn’t lifelong fandom that led Gibson to wear a new mask that honored Bryant. Gibson was motivated by respect and sorrow and something bigger, and his gesture stands as a touching affirmation of Bryant’s rare and powerful cross-sport appeal.

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Many golfers on the PGA Tour honored Bryant as well, including at the Genesis Invitational.

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The fans

Fans
Kobe Bryant signs an autograph for a young fan.
(Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press)

The Times asked readers to write in with their favorite memories of Bryant, whether it was a moment spent watching him in a game or a chance encounter during the course of their daily lives.

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Celebrities

Front-row fans, including Jack Nicholson, cheer Kobe Bryant in his final game.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A bevy of sports stars and celebrities — from Jack Nicholson to Lil Nas X to Barack Obama — mourned the fallen star and took to social media to pay their respects.

Produced by Agnus Dei Farrant.

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