Kobe Bryant and the Lakers Inspire Art Community

Tribute+Mural+by+Tyke+Witness+located+at+El+Toro+Bravo+Tortilleria%2C+Costa+Mesa.

Los Angeles Times, Allen J. Schaben

Tribute Mural by Tyke Witness located at El Toro Bravo Tortilleria, Costa Mesa.

Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory in the 2020 NBA championship on Sunday, October 11th, hundreds of Lakers fans gathered to celebrate the win. The championship gave rise to a new wave of street art and murals in the city, inspiring a transformative moment in the sports industry and also among the art community. 

Since late January, many tribute murals have been painted to honor Kobe Bryant, who greatly influenced the team during his 20 seasons as a Laker and was key to the team’s success. For the same reasons, many fans associated the championship win with Kobe Bryant.

Located at El Toro Bravo Tortilleria in Costa Mesa lies a famous Kobe Bryant tribute mural. The mural features two halos above the heads of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, who are leaning against each other. The background features the name “KOBE” in purple with a basketball as the “O” and the name “Gigi” integrated in the letter “K”. The mural was painted by graffiti artist Tyke Witness, a father of two who was inspired by Kobe’s attitude and mindset towards work and family. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Witness said “[Painting the mural] was a way of getting some grief out and doing something for the community. Kobe had this work ethic, to trust yourself and do your best, and I used that same mentality to make this mural.”

Lakers House by Tetris in South Central Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Magazine)

Los Angeles–based muralist Hector Tetris Arias, also known as tetriswai on Instagram painted a house to honor and have the community celebrate the win together. The entire property has a yellow and purple themethe colors of the Los Angeles Lakers, with Anthony Davis’ face and Kobe Bryant’s initials spray painted as a way to commemorate and pay tribute to Bryant. 

“Leave a Legacy” by Gustavo Zermeno Jr. at 5522 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles. (Secret Los Angeles)

The “Leave a Legacy” mural was also one of the most popular murals for fans and Angelinos alike to visit. The foreground of the mural features all the championship team players dressed in the team’s signature purple and gold uniforms18 in total, with 17 championship trophies. Legendary Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed away alongside his daughter Gianna Bryant this past January is painted on top of the mural in memoriam wearing his No. 24 jersey. 

Gustavo Zermeno Jr., a muralist based in Venice, California, collaborated with the Lakers and UCLA Health to paint the mural. He is known for his professional sports team murals, specifically murals of Los Angeles’ basketball, football, baseball, and hockey teams. 

The mural gained recognition after being shared on the Kobe Bryant Lakers Murals Instagram page, a popular account dedicated to murals of Kobe Bryant. 

The message of the mural extends far beyond celebrating the Lakers championship, addressing current social issues in the nation. In the background of the mural, a crowd of protestors and medical staffers are depicted holding signs with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice Now.” 

In an interview with CBS, Zermeno claimed that the mural “doesn’t represent just basketball. It represents being the best person you can be, and with 2020, it’s really waking a lot of people up to not just the social injustice, but being aware of family and friends and what’s really important.”