When legendary Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in January, artists were inspired to paint murals in tribute. Since then, more than 400 murals of Bryant have popped up around the world.
One of the latest is in Tampa, created by local artist Jorge Roldan on the basketball court at Seminole Heights Elementary School. At 8,000 square feet — 80 feet tall and 100 feet wide — it’s one of the largest murals of Bryant in the world.
Roldan, 24, known professionally as Rojo the Artist, conceived of the mural as part of his work as a volunteer with TRIBE Seminole Heights, a nonprofit community center that often partners with the school, providing supplemental programs from art to yoga to coding.
In September, while painting other murals at the school, Roldan caught a glimpse of the basketball court and thought how cool it would be to paint on it.
Heavily influenced to play basketball by Bryant’s illustrious career, his subject was a no-brainer.
“I knew it needed to be Kobe, just because he’s gone now,” Roldan said. “And the school’s colors are purple and gold, the same as the Lakers, so the stars aligned there.”
He pitched it to Kristen Brown, TRIBE founder and director, who took it as a joke.
“I was like, okay, well, maybe,” Brown said.
But when Brown approached the school’s principal, Francine Lazarus, she jumped on the idea. Brown said their past partnerships created a bond of trust between the school and the community center, which made the Kobe mural feasible.
Brown fundraised to pay for the mural.
As a self-taught painter, the massive piece is the largest Roldan has ever worked on.
“It was a learning experience,” he said. “I was confident in my ability if I could get the right resources and equipment. I had to trust my process.”
He used a drone to get an overhead photograph of the court and, using a grid method, worked up from a small painting.
It took 300 hours over the course of a month to complete. Bad weather meant losing time and crunching for the last week, working 12-hour days and once into the night.
While it’s not entirely clear which of the hundreds of murals of Bryant is the biggest, Roldan’s is “one of the largest,” Mike Asner, founder of the website kobemural, said in an email. Roldan’s mural is included on the website, which maps every mural of Bryant in the world.
Brown said the mural is a great tribute to Bryant and exemplifies how much the player attributed hard work to his success. Posters of quotes by Bryant that align with the school’s Leader in Me program were created and hung around the school. They pair the phrases “Be proactive” and “Think win-win” with Bryant quotes like “Be a leader on and off the court.”
“These are the tools we want to be teaching the kids at the Title 1 schools,“ Brown said. “Our hope is that it will just be a little cooler coming from Kobe.”
Roldan said that while he was painting the students were like an “army of little people to cheer him on.”
He said he was pleased with the way the mural turned out and has plans for more.
“I am in love with the shock that people got from my doing this,” he said. “Doing big things is what I want to go for.”