**FILE** Kobe Bryant (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) continues to displays basketball icon Kobe Bryant’s basketball jersey in the “Sports: Leveling the Playing Field” gallery, which began Oct. 15. Bryant wore this important piece of basketball history during Game Five of the 2008 NBA Finals, the year he won the league’s MVP award. Bryant’s jersey remains on view next to a pair of LeBron James 15 “Equality” sneakers by Nike.

As a five-time NBA champion, Bryant earned the NBA MVP in 2008 and NBA Finals MVP awards in 2009 and 2010 with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he spent his entire NBA career. Bryant was also part of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team that won gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The basketball icon’s life was tragically cut short in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020.

The display text accompanying the Bryant jersey reads: “In 1996, Kobe Bryant became the first guard to successfully make the leap from high school to the National Basketball Association. At the time, experts were skeptical that high school wing players could compete in the NBA. His success ushered in the modern era of younger players in the league.”

“Kobe’s contributions on and off the court are remarkable,” said Spencer Crew, interim director, NMAAHC. “As a founding donor, he understood the significance of this museum to the nation and the world. After postponing the March installation due to COVID-19, we believe now is the perfect moment in history to honor his memory by placing his jersey on view.”

For those who cannot visit the museum in person, Bryant’s jersey and more information about his career can be viewed online at https://nmaahc.si.edu. Free timed-entry passes are required to access the museum and are available on the museum’s website.

NMAAHC is open Wednesdays through Sundays 11 a.m.–4 p.m. To protect visitors’ and staff’s health, the museum limits the number of passes to 1,100 per day. During this time, the museum will not accommodate any walk-up visitors.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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