Kobe Bryant honored in Bosnia with giant mural on school wall

Artist Deni Bozic (27) paints the last details on his tribute mural honoring former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant on a school building wall in Gradiska, Bosnia and Herzegovina June 8, 2020. Picture taken June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

GRADISKA, Bosnia (Reuters) – Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who died in a helicopter crash in January, has been honored with a giant mural commissioned by sports enthusiasts and painted on the side of an elementary school building in northern Bosnia.

“Kobe was a basketball and sports legend and the athlete who deserves … a modern 21st century monument,” said artist Deni Bozic, after putting the final touches to the 39-foot (12 meter) wide, 19-foot (6 meter) tall artwork in the town of Gradiska.

The initiative for the tribute to Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers who won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, came from a group of local basketball players.

“This mural is a monument to the town in which basketball has been alive for the past 30-40 years,” said Igor Damjanovic, an ex-basketball player and one of the group of enthusiasts behind the project.

As he spoke, a group of boys played basketball on the school court next to the mural.

“We began the project in February, but the situation with coronavirus has delayed it up until a few days ago,” Damjanovic said.

The image features the late player in his gold Lakers jersey preparing to take a shot against a background of a blue sky and clouds. The “black mamba” logo with which he is associated appears in the top right-hand corner.

Bozic, who had to balance on a long ladder to paint the upper parts of the mural, said it was a major challenge to cover such a large surface.

Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles on Jan. 26 along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others.

Reporting by Dado Ruvic, writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Mike Collett-White