6 Spectacular Street Murals to Visit for Kobe Bryant Day
Spend your 8/24 thinking about the legendary Lakers player at these gorgeous murals all over town, and get something to eat too.
Regardless of whether you rooted for him on the basketball court, it’s hard not to love what Kobe Bryant represents to the city of Los Angeles. His indomitable attitude, endless work ethic, and eternal quest for greatness resonated with so many Angelenos, inspiring them to keep pushing. People often associate the Lakers with glitz and glamor, courtside celebrities, and the Forum Club, and there’s good reason for that. But most Laker fans sit in the arena’s Upper Bowl or at home in front of their TVs, or listen to the radio broadcast as they work. LA is an underrated blue collar sports city, and Kobe was the perfect face for the dreamers, strivers, and nose to the grindstone types who are trying to make things happen here.
His untimely death in January 2020 was an unqualified tragedy, a disaster that now feels like a harbinger of a hellish year to come. But at least there is art—gorgeous remembrances, eulogies, and best of all, street art. Taken together, the Kobe Murals—often featuring his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, who was killed in the same helicopter accident—are an unbelievable collection, diverse and unique and creative and dominant, a fitting tribute to the man himself.
LA native and Kobe Bryant superfan Anya Lloyd has been to dozens of the murals, in town and all around the world—she makes a point of visiting any she can find on her travels. “When Kobe passed, I found going to murals as a way to connect with other people who felt as deeply as I did for a man they didn’t know personally,” she says. In the aftermath of the accident in 2020, Lloyd felt that “seeing others expressing their sadness by leaving flowers, notes, and cards, hugging their loved ones and grieving at the murals, helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.”
And now, two and a half years on, the murals are still gathering spots for fans and like-minded pilgrims but with a more joyful feeling. As Lloyd puts it, “Now seeing the murals is a wonderful reminder of what he means to the people of Los Angeles. Even though he’s no longer with us, we won’t let his legacy fade.”
With the help of the amazing guide at Kobemural.com, we’ve selected six of our local favorite murals to visit on August 24, which has been commemorated as Kobe Bryant Day (or Black Mamba Day) by LA and Orange County, with the date selected to honor both jersey numbers that Kobe wore during his basketball career. We’ve also selected some nearby food spots in each neighborhood to pair with your street art tour.
Eat at: Fixins
Jonas Never’s iconic Kobe mural actually went up on Lebanon Street near the arena in 2015, and it was done without the building owner’s knowledge or consent. But Kobe’s stature is so great, and the mural’s depiction of Wally Skalij’s intense photo was so instantly iconic, that it could never have been taken down. After Kobe’s death it became one of the most popular places for mourners to gather, and now the mural is covered with messages written by fans and admirers from around the world. If you need a wind-down after taking it all in, you have plenty of options in the immediate downtown area—but your best bet for a mentally and emotionally fortifying meal is probably at Fixins, the energetic soul food experts at LA Live, just steps from the stadium where Bryant hoisted so many trophies.
Eat at: Ta-Eem Grill
Sneaker stores are a key cog at the cultural intersection of basketball, street art, and hip hop (let’s not forget Kobe was a rapper too, sort of). So it is perfectly fitting that one of the best and most popular Kobe murals is on the side of Shoe Palace’s gleaming Melrose location. This one is one of Llyod’s favorites, too. In the early days there were post-it notes and pens left out at the base of the mural, and mourners were encouraged to write notes and messages to Kobe, and about what he meant to them—the wall filled up fast. Lloyd says it was particularly therapeutic to be able to write something, and to read what other people had written. Just down the street, Ta-Eem serves up massive plates of Mediterranean street food, including some of the best shawarma around, killer zhug, and incredibly fluffy fresh-baked pita. Lunch at Ta-Eem is also rather therapeutic.
Eat at: Dulan’s
One of the most touching pieces of Kobe’s legacy is his relationship with his daughters, including middle daughter Gianna, who died with him in the helicopter crash. Kobe’s support for her on and off the basketball court was legendary, and the dramatic mural on the South-facing wall of JS Liquor & Market on Century Blvd and Vermont in South LA depicts that in gorgeous, artistic fashion. On a stark black wall, Gianna sits on Kobe’s shoulders under a gold sun that looks almost like a halo, or a beacon beckoning them skyward. It is a powerful piece, and it should only be paired with a life-affirming meal—luckily, Adolf Dulan’s legendary soul food restaurant Dulan’s is less than a mile west on Century.
Eat at: La Autentica Birrieria
There is a tendency to pack as much detail as possible into these murals, to best encapsulate all of the many things that Kobe achieved, and that he meant to the city. Isaac Pelayo took the opposite approach with his mural on the side of Nelson’s Liquor in Burbank. The image is stark and thoughtful, a white wall with Kobe’s back turned to the viewer. He pumps his fist as he walks away from us, celebrating some monumental accomplishment and heading on towards the next. Spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation over some of the Arana family’s slow-cooked birria at La Autentica Birrieria, a truck that parks at the Victory Vineland Community center nearby. They use a longstanding recipe they brought with them from Michoacan, which works well with both goat or beef birria, especially on their handmade tortillas.
Eat at: RibTown BBQ
Many Kobe murals merge LA iconography with Lakers style, but few do it as well as Danny Mateo’s mural on the Western Ave side of United Auto Center in Jefferson Park. On one side Kobe carries Gianna, and on the other Kobe stares into the distance wearing his Laker gold jersey, but it is the background that grabs the eye—an LA sunset dripping in purple-to-gold gradient behind the downtown skyline and a row of palm trees. In big, bold Lakers font it says “Legends never die.” Just a few blocks down Jefferson is where pitmaster Lonnie Edwards of RibTown BBQ sets up his smokers and dishes out some of the very best BBQ in town—you may even be able to smell that oak smoke while you’re admiring the mural.
Eat at: Hisaya Kyoto Chestnuts
In one outstanding sequence, artist Mike Trujillo has captured the arc of Kobe’s career from beginning to end. The mural at Burger City Grill in Old Town Torrance depicts a single dunk but through the stages of the dunk Kobe morphs from his Lower Merion High School self, through his early Laker years wearing number eight, into Team USA Olympics Kobe, and then lands in his final form, a titan drenched in gold. It also includes a classic LA sunset over city landmarks like downtown, the Hollywood sign, Staples Center, and the Santa Monica Pier, and incorporates his five championship trophies and one Academy Award. Grab a bite at Burger City Grill, and then maybe head over to Hisaya for some chestnut ice cream for dessert. Or at this point you may need to drown your sorrows in a beer or three—luckily, Monkish Brewing is nearby.