New mural celebrates ‘Black Mamba’

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Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — Aug. 24 has become “Mamba Day” in Los Angeles, the day the city celebrates the life and career of the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

The unofficial remembrance of Bryant, who was nicknamed “Black Mamba,” pays homage to the uniform numbers 8 and 24 that he wore during his 20-year Hall of Fame career and comes a day after his actual birthday.

Both his numbers were retired by the Lakers in 2017, the year after he hung up his sneakers, making him the first NBA player to have two numbers retired by the same team.

Bryant, who died Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas that also took the lives of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, would have turned 44 Aug. 23 and his widow Vanessa posted on Instagram, “Happy birthday, baby! I love you and miss you so much! #44 (heart).”

To mark the occasion this year, a giant outdoor mural was unveiled near downtown, while the Santa Monica Pier’s Ferris wheel was lit up in purple and gold after sunset.

The mural — dubbed “Grana” — takes up the whole wall outside the offices of the West Coast Trial Lawyers at 1147 S. Hope St., just a few blocks from Arena, where Bryant starred when it was known as Staples Center.

The artwork, created by muralist Odeith and L.A.-based illustrator Nikkolas Smith, measures 125 feet by 32 feet — which the artists say is the largest portrait of Bryant ever created in the city.

It depicts a close-up of Bryant’s face in black-and-white, flanked by a mamba snake on the left and, in color, a group of children — including Gianna — playing basketball atop a giant book.

The book is “Epoca,” one of the children’s stories Bryant created through his Granity Studios company after he retired from basketball.

“I am proud to unveil ‘Grana,’ the tallest Bryant mural in Los Angeles,” Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said at a news conference as about 80 passersby and staff looked on. “The mural shows both sides of Kobe: the fiercely competitive black mamba and the creative genius behind the Academy Award-winning ‘Dear Basketball.’”

Rahmani’s “Dear Basketball” reference was to a 2015 poem by Bryant that was adapted into a short 2017 animated feature narrated by Bryant himself. It won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2018.

Smith, the mural’s illustrator, told City News Service “It was an honor to make this mural, a dedication to Kobe and his creative and athletic genius.”

“Kobe Bryant created stories for children that featured Black and brown characters, so he inspired kids in ways that went even beyond what he did on the basketball court,” Smith added.

Later that day, at sunset, the 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier was lit up with the numbers 8 and 24, as well as with the Lakers’ gold and purple colors in a variety of patterns and transitions.

Bryant played his entire career with the Lakers and became the team’s all-time leader in games (1,346), minutes played (48,637), field goals (11,719) and 3-point field goals (1,827), among numerous team records.

He also is the Lakers’ all-time leader in points with 33,643. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finished his 20-year career with an NBA-record 38,387 points, but only 24,176 were achieved in his 14 seasons with the Lakers.

Bryant also led the Lakers to five NBA titles and appeared in 18 all-star games.

He wore No. 8 from 1996 to 2006, then switched to No. 24 for the rest of his career.


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