UPDATE, 10 a.m. Friday: Between Thursday night and Friday morning, someone defaced the mural of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, painting the word “rapist” next to Kobe’s face.
Felix Jaimes, one of the artists who created the mural, painted over the word Friday morning.
KXAN photographer Todd Bynum caught up with Jaimes as he was repairing the mural.
In 2003, a 19-year-old hotel worker in Edwards, Colorado accused Bryant of having non-consensual sex with her. The case garnered national media attention and lasted 14 months. It was eventually dismissed because the witness refused to testify.
Bryant, then 24 years old, admitted to having sex with the woman but denied any allegation it wasn’t consensual. Bryant and the woman reached a confidential civil settlement in 2005, but Bryant maintained his innocence.
Below is our original story on the mural from Thursday:
AUSTIN (KXAN) — A mural dedicated to the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi went up this week in Austin after they were both killed in a tragic helicopter crash in California Sunday.
The mural is located on the backside of the restaurant Sushi Hi located at the intersection of Guadalupe Street and 29th Street. It was created by a trio of Texas-based graffiti artists: Josue Rivera, known as Laced and Found; Felix Jaimes, who goes by Snuk One; and Riki Loring.
“Kobe made an impact on so many generations. For Kobe’s fans in Austin, for those who loved him, looked up to him, were inspired by him, for those who made mistakes and did everything in their power to show others that they are more than their mistakes, for those who didn’t know anything about him but respected his legacy and him as a human,” the artist’s Instagram post about the mural said.
Rivera and Jaimes appeared on KXAN Live Thursday afternoon, where they explained that it only took them about seven hours to paint the entire mural. They began planning it Monday and finished all the work Tuesday.
“Everybody has a place now in Austin to go and pay respects and honor Kobe Bryant and everyone who unfortunately passed away in that flight,” Rivera said. “Even though their faces are not on there or the names are not on the wall, everybody knows they were directly tied to Kobe’s untimely death. When people go to that wall and pay respects to Kobe and his daughter, they’re also paying respects to the other people who passed away on that flight.”
Since they finished the artwork, the artists said the wall has become a local memorial to Bryant and his daughter. People have now stopped by and left things like flowers, candles and balloons there. Jaimes said the loss of his uncle last year inspired him to want to create a mural for Bryant even though the renowned NBA player had no direct ties to Austin.
“It hit home to me,” Jaimes said. “Kobe is a symbol of uniting families and getting everyone together, watching the games with close friends and family. It’s just heartbreaking that that symbol itself is what was taken from them.”
Local Laker fan reaction
28-year-old Austinite and lifelong Lakers fan Quitin Whitley stopped by the mural after dropping off his sister at school. He’s watched Kobe play since he was a kid. The news on Sunday hit him hard.
I was actually house shopping and it was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life cause I’m transitioning into something really great. Kobe passing, it was just really sad. It took the air out of my whole day. I’m glad I have sun shades on right now because I’m tearing up just thinking about it.Whitley
When asked about his first reaction to the mural, Whitley said he’s “proud to be from Austin” for this to exist in the city he was born and raised.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s been going on lately here that’s just not the best, but for us to come together and do something like this. It makes me super proud to be from Austin,” Whitley said.
He’s thankful for the art honoring his hero.
“He deserves it man,” Whitley said. “He was everybody’s idol, everybody’s mentor. And that’s the way I describe it to people when they ask me, ‘Why does this affect you so much?’ Just because like, when you don’t have somebody to look up to and then you can look up to Kobe Bryant and he’s just gone one day, it’s crazy man. It’s like watching Goku die. You know what I mean? It’s like watching a superhero die in the flesh.”
And when he learned about Gigi also being on the helicopter Sunday:
“That was like a second kind of knife in the back,” Whitley said. “If you watch basketball then you are very familiar with his daughter and very familiar with how far she was gonna push women’s sports in general, especially basketball. Not only did basketball take a hit. Women’s sports took a hit. Youth sports took a hit. The whole sports community took a huge hit with this one.”