Since Kobe Bryant’s untimely death at the start of the year, his life and legacy have been honored on various occasions. Most recently, it was announced the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will display the basketball legend’s jersey from the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.
The museum revealed the news on Twitter alongside a heartfelt tribute to the NBA star.
Noting Bryant’s five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards and one league MVP award, the post also praised his Black Mamba mentality before acknowledging his personal relationship with the museum.
“At NMAAHC, Kobe holds a very special place in our hearts. In the very critical stages of building our museum, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant became founding donors, giving us the boost that we needed to keep moving forward,” read a tweet from the museum’s Twitter account.
As a donor, Bryant actually gifted the jersey to the museum in December 2017. Nearly three years later, NMAAHC decided to display it because it “serves as a testament to the resiliency of African Americans & expands on the impact of Black popular culture in sports.”
Spencer Crew, a museum official, further explained the decision to have Bryant’s jersey on view.
“As a founding donor, [Kobe] understood the significance of this museum to the nation and the world,” he told TMZ. “After postponing the March installation due to COVID-19, we believe now is the perfect moment in history to honor his memory by placing his jersey on view.”
Damion Thomas, the museum’s sports curator, added that NMAAHC “wanted to be responsive to…visitors.” “We saw that people were using our museum as a space to grieve and talk about the legacy of Kobe Bryant,” he said. “We wanted to be able to share his impact. It really is about the cultural significance of basketball as an expression of the African American fight for greater rights.”