Kobe Bryant’s 2008 NBA Finals jersey part of new sports exhibit at national African American museum

Blue Telusma
·2 min read

The late basketball great is honored in the museum’s new sports exhibit

This month the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has decided to honor Kobe Bryant’s legacy in a brand new exhibit.

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Monday, the Washington, D.C.-based museum publicly unveiled its new Sports: Leveling the Playing Field display which features iconic sports memorabilia including the white No. 24 Los Angeles Lakers jersey Bryant wore during Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

“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,” reads the display.

However, the Lakers lost the championship to the Boston Celtics that year, who beat them 4 games to 2.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Damion Thomas, the Smithsonian’s sports curator, explained, “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.”

“Kobe Bryant’s “Black Mamba” mentality propelled him to the upper echelon of sports and inspired millions of people around the world. Bryant played twenty seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers— winning five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards, and one league MVP award,” notes the announcement made on the museum’s official Twitter account. “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. #GameChangers.”

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The museum also confirmed that Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, believed in their vision so much the couple donated over $1M to the NMAAHC to help ensure it was built.

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