The foundation created by NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died Sunday, and his wife Vanessa, helped fund the creation of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
On Sunday, after his death, visitors to the museum shared their grief at the loss of an African American cultural icon.
“As an African American, as you are going through the museum, there is a heaviness that you feel – it ties to your emotion, and then you hear the news of somebody like Kobe Bryant,” said Shaanon Maney, who was at the museum Sunday. “His daughter Gigi was following in his footsteps… to see something like that, I mean, it’s just heartbreaking.”
The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation is listed on the museum’s website as one of the founding donors to the museum.
Founding donors are “donors who make a commitment of $1 million or more to the National Museum of African American History and Culture prior to its opening in 2016.”
“I will tell you what moved me more than anything else is my memory of Kobe coming to all the opening events around the museum and the fact that he was so generous with his time,” said Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian Instutition. “He would stop and talk to people, he would let everybody take pictures with him. He never let them forget they were there to celebrate the museum.”
After the museum opened in 2016, Bryant said, “Go see this museum. There is no greater testament to this country than the stories in this building. Honored to be part of it.”
Some Bryant memorabilia is on display at the museum, including a uniform and a 2002 photo of him. The uniform was donated by Bryant himself.
“I was right near the sports area in the museum [when I found out], and we had just watched a clip of President Obama saying, ‘Obama out,’ which was him imitating Kobe Bryant, so it was sad and poignant,” said Jackie Laughlin, another visitor to the museum.