8/24 is Kobe Bryant Day. Expect fanfare and tributes around L.A.
It’s been nearly seven months since basketball great Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other friends were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, and the growing number of tribute murals — more than 200 in Southern California alone — proves that the devotion of fans like Mike Asner is as strong as ever.
Asner, creator of KobeMural.com to track all those murals, expects a new outpouring of tributes in the next few days as we approach Aug. 24 — Kobe Bryant Day.
The Los Angeles City Council dubbed Aug. 24 Kobe Bryant Day back in 2016 to commemorate the two jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — he wore during his 20-year career with the Lakers.
When Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, artistic fans expressed their grief by creating huge tribute murals days after the Lakers’ star’s death. Ardent fan Mike Asner was so moved by what he saw, he created the @KobeMural account on Instagram to map the location of the murals, which now number 200 in Southern California alone.
On Aug. 12, the Orange County Board of Supervisors designated Aug. 24 as Kobe Bryant Day as well, to honor Bryant’s contributions to the county where he lived. The supervisors made the designation at the request of board Chairwoman Michelle Steel, a lifelong Lakers fan, who called Bryant a “treasured” member of the community who “inspired so many men and women to pursue their dreams and never give up.” The supervisors also noted the others killed in the crash — Bryant’s daughter Gianna, known as Gigi; Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser; Ara Zobayan; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton.
Monday is also the day after Bryant’s birthday on Aug. 23. He would have been 42.
Bryant’s death could have gotten lost in the subsequent crazy months of pandemic, unemployment, faltering economy and social upheaval, but the tribute murals just keep coming, Asner said.
In the past month, 25 murals have been added to Asner’s @kobemural Instagram feed and kobemural.com website, which map — as of Thursday — 327 Kobe tribute murals that have been created in Southern California and other parts of the world since his death.
“I just expect we’re going to see a ton of social media and a lot of displays of gratitude and appreciation for him that day to do something to honor him,” he said. “And what better way to do that than go to a mural and take a photo, or just share some part of his life?”
The inaugural Mamba Week, which kicks off Aug. 23, will feature five new versions of the Kobe V Protro.
Asner said he’s aware of at least two other murals racing toward completion by this weekend: one in New York and another at the ASHE Society cannabis dispensary in Santa Ana, not far from Bryant’s home in Newport Beach. ASHE commissioned three artists — Mikala Taylor (@mikalataylormade), Tony Concep’ (@tonycncp) and Michael Ziobrowski (@xistheweapon) — to cover a 11-by-90-foot wall with a tribute mural in time for the weekend, when it plans to wrap a Bryant tribute with its long-delayed grand opening.
“We want to celebrate his life and our store opening five months ago,” said longtime Bryant fan Lawrence Puente, ASHE’s dispatch manager. “ASHE is an acronym that stands for advocacy, social equity, health and education. We feel Kobe was also about all those things, so we’re just following his footsteps and showing our appreciation for what he’s done for the Orange County community and a lot of employees who work here.”
Others are mixing commerce with Bryant tributes, such as Nike. The company hasn’t offered a Kobe Bryant signature sneaker since his death, but it announced last week that it plans to honor Bryant’s life and accomplishments with five new versions of the Kobe V Protro sneaker silhouette and a reissued basketball jersey, designed in part by Bryant, during “Mamba Week” between Aug. 23-29.
Nike is also using the announcement to draw attention to the Mamba League it created in partnership with Bryant and local Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as its $1-million donation to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation in memory of Bryant and Gianna.
Hailey Van Lith, 18, is a top high school basketball player. Kobe and “Gigi” Bryant found a common bond, and friendship, with Hailey and her dad.
“I am still surprised by how much impact he had globally,” Asner said. “I’ve been reading this great book that Kobe wrote called “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play,” and it’s inspirational. This is how this guy lived his life. He was special. He wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes, but he improved himself. And I can apply that to my life.”
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