The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is displaying basketball icon Kobe Bryant’s basketball jersey in the “Sports: Leveling the Playing Field” gallery, beginning Oct. 15. Bryant wore this important piece of basketball history during Game Five of the 2008 NBA Finals, the year he won the league’s MVP award. Bryant’s jersey will be on view next to a pair of LeBron James 15 “Equality” sneakers by Nike.
As a five-time NBA champion, Bryant earned the NBA MVP in 2008 and NBA Finals MVP awards in 2009 and 2010 with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he spent his entire NBA career. Bryant was also part of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team that won gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The basketball icon’s life was tragically cut short in a helicopter crash Jan. 26, 2020.
The jersey is white with yellow panels and purple piping and accents. It features a sewn design across the front reading “Lakers/24” and on the back reading “Bryant/24.” The NBA logo is embroidered on the left shoulder. The display text accompanying the Bryant jersey reads: “In 1996, Kobe Bryant became the first guard to successfully make the leap from high school to the National Basketball Association. At the time, experts were skeptical that high school wing players could compete in the NBA. His success ushered in the modern era of younger players in the league.”
“Kobe’s contributions on and off the court are remarkable,” said Spencer Crew, interim director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “As a founding donor, he understood the significance of this museum to the nation and the world. 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.”
As a founding donor of NMAAHC, Bryant urged his Twitter followers to visit the museum in 2016 by tweeting, “There is no greater testament to this country than the stories in this building.” The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation contributed at least $1 million to NMAAHC, and in 2017, Bryant donated his 2008 jersey to the museum.
For those who cannot visit the museum in person, Bryant’s jersey and more information about his career can be viewed online at https://nmaahc.si.edu/. Free timed-entry passes are required to access the museum and are available on the museum’s website.
NMAAHC is open Wednesdays through Sundays 11 a.m.–4 p.m. To protect visitors’ and staff’s health, the museum limits the number of passes to 1,100 per day. During this time, the museum will not accommodate any walk-up visitors.