LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The “Sunday whites” Kobe Bryant wore in Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals have been added to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The white jersey, with its yellow panels and purple piping and accents, was added last week to the “Sports: Leveling the Playing Field” gallery at the museum in Washington D.C. They will be on view next to the “Equality” Nikes worn by current Lakers superstar, LeBron James.
“Kobe’s contributions on and off the court are remarkable,” Spencer Crew, interim director of the museum, said in a statement. “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.”
The Los Angeles Lakers won its 17th NBA Championship on Oct. 11, after the season was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The championship is the first for the team in 10 years and comes just months after the 41-year-old Lakers icon died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas that also killed his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others.
The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation contributed at least $1 million to the National Museum of African American History. Bryant donated the jersey, which he wore in a reboot of the storied rivalry between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics, in 2017.
Kobe also had the opportunity to visit the museum before its opening. He was so moved by the experience that he later donated his uniform jersey from the 2008 NBA Finals, the year he was named the league MVP. #GameChangers pic.twitter.com/Cy3zuXDGj9
— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) October 19, 2020
The museum noted that Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, was the NBA MVP in 2008, the NBA Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010, and also played on the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball teams that earned gold in 2008 and 2012.
The display text that accompanies 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.”
The National Museum of African American History has reopened to the public, but is not accommodating walk-up visitors and is admitting just 1,100 people a day.