Fans of Kobe Bryant just can’t stop celebrating his life and accomplishments, and thanks to the Smithsonian Institute, they won’t have to. The museum in Washington, D.C., has a new exhibit opening Monday that will honor the late icon and NBA star. Featuring a Lakers’ jersey that Kobe wore during the 2008 NBA Finals (the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in that Finals series), the display will be located inside the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African History and Culture.
“We wanted to be able to share his impact,” said Damion Thomas, the sport’s curator for the museum. “It really is about the cultural significance of basketball as an expression of the African American fight for greater rights.”
Kobe already had a presence at the museum, and this adds to it’s impact. Kobe and his wife, Vanessa, actually helped build the museum, donating $1 million from their foundation for its development. This new exhibit will also include other jerseys and basketball items of historical significance.
The idea for the Bryant section was Thomas’ idea. He told the LA Times that after Kobe’s death in January, he recalled a night back in 2016, a week before the official opening of the museum, when Kobe was one of the VIP’s and dignitaries visiting for a sneak peek. Thomas spent 45 minutes showing Bryant around, and he told Kobe he’d like to have some of his artifacts from his career to help tell his story. Within a few weeks, Thomas received the jersey, Nike shoes and a pair of shorts.
Thomas said Kobe sent the jersey from a Finals series the Lakers lost, and not from the following two seasons when the Lakers won the title. “I’m keeping the 2009 and 2010,” Kobe told Thomas with a laugh.