It’s not every day that a sports jersey from the 1980s gets displayed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. But that’s exactly what Kobe Bryant’s L.A. Lakers jersey is hanging alongside a photo of Ella Baker at Friday’s dedication ceremony.
Aubrey Williams, director of the museum’s African American Artworks exhibition, shared some of the first-time visitors’ reactions to finding the jersey, which the Lakers donated this summer to the museum for its collection.
“I was actually a little distressed,” he said. “People said, ‘Oh, this is new.’ And when I went over to it, I could tell what Kobe Bryant is wearing on it. My first thought was, ‘What do you want to know?’”
The Lakers’ first black superstar, Bryant, recently stepped down as an active player. He became a free agent in July of 2016, and has donated a number of his personal items to the museum, Williams said.
Bryant didn’t attend the dedication ceremony, but Williams said he has a solid understanding of the significance of the jersey.
“If he’s at his home, there’s a possibility he’s going to play the Kobe jersey right here,” Williams said. “That’s an incredible feeling.”