Thousands of friends and fans gathered at the Staples Center in Los Angeles this week to celebrate Kobe Bryant’s life following the helicopter crash that killed the basketball star, his daughter Gianna, and seven others last month.
That emotional memorial service won’t be the last way in which Bryant is remembered. Family, fellow sports greats, and fans who never met the former Los Angeles Lakers star are finding a way to assure his memory endures with them forever.
Basketball stars getting tattoos in honor of Kobe Bryant
Many of the tributes to Kobe Bryant following his death on Jan. 26 have been in the form of heartfelt words that will be remembered by some and preserved for others to access in years to come.
Some NBA players have taken it a step further by getting tattoos paying tribute to Bryant, who scored 33,643 regular-season points plus 5,640 more in the playoffs in 20 pro seasons and is headed for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
LeBron James, both a rival on the court with Bryant in the NBA and a teammate on the U.S. Olympic Team, honored his friend with a large thigh tattoo including an image of a black snake, the numbers 24 and 8 that Bryant wore on his Lakers uniform, and the words “Mamba 4 Life.”
Anthony Davis of the Lakers, who played four seasons with New Orleans while Bryant was still active, followed suit with a thigh tattoo tribute of his own – a black mamba wrapped around a sword.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith, a 15-year pro who like Davis never played alongside Bryant, asked his tattoo artist for a recreation of a photo of Bryant wearing an NBA champions baseball cap.
Stars outside the basketball world are getting Bryant tattoos
Soccer player Sydney Leroux, who has made 77 appearances with the U.S. Women’s National Team, shared a uniform number with Gianna Bryant, who perished at the age of 13.
Leroux, a family friend of the Bryants, had her tattoo artist sketch a simple “2,” which was Gianna’s uniform number with her AAU basketball team. She also lavished praise on the teen, saying, “Your dad told me that you were going to be better than he was. You had the gift no matter what you were playing.”
Rappers 2Chainz and The Game (whose ink is positioned above the left eyebrow on his face), and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. have also been mentioned in news reports as having gotten tribute tattoos.
Meanwhile, demand among fans has also soared. Some artists have reported lines of customers after offering simple designs of the uniform numbers for $24.
Kobe Bryant’s unfinished mission
Retired basketball star Kobe Bryant was a fan of tattoos and had several done in his younger days. After becoming a father, he added fine-line scripts of the names of his oldest daughters: Natalia Diamante, Bianka Bella, and Gianna Maria Onore.
A fourth daughter, Capri Kobe, was born to Vanessa Bryant last summer. Kobe had scheduled an appointment for Feb. 5 to have her name added but he died before it could be done.