Local artist paints mural for Kobe and other crash victims near Barclays Center

February 10, 2020 Jaime Dejesus
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Long Island-based artist and lifelong Lakers fan Efren Andaluz was devastated when NBA legend Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash along with seven others on Sunday, Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California, so he decided to pay Bryant and the other victims of the crash tribute in a mural near Barclays Center. 

Although Bryant spent his 20-year career as a Laker, winning five championships, Brooklyn has shown its love for the five-time NBA champion and his daughter Gianna following the accident. Coney Island’s Parachute Jump was lit up in Lakers colors, with Bryant’s uniform number displayed on the structure. Local elected officials and Brooklyn Nets players also offered their condolences following the accident.

Andaluz added to Brooklyn’s tributes by painting the mural of Kobe and Gianna, which incorporates the names of the other seven individuals that died.

“I have watched Kobe and Shaq since I was a kid,” Andaluz said. “I have a daughter so it hit close to home … I didn’t want to talk to anyone that first day. I waited.”

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Once he felt a bit better, Andaluz decided to create a mural in New York. 

“I’m a Long Island artist, but I wanted to do something close to Brooklyn … I put it on my Instagram page and let people know that I appreciate everyone reaching out to me.”

Andaluz had to look for a location and a wall that would work best for the mural. He used Google Earth to check the surroundings of the Barclays Center, home of the Nets, to see if any spot fit the bill. 

“I pinpointed some walls and I tried to figure out who the building owner was, so I had to call the real estate agent,” he said. “Finally someone got back to me and said that he wants to do it.”

When looking for the perfect image, Andaluz found inspiration in a photo of Kobe taken by Jon Sohoo for Sports Illustrated. The photo depicts the 18-time All Star lying down on a court with his head resting on a basketball. 

Soohoo was impressed with Andaluz’s tribute. 

“He contacted me yesterday saying that he appreciated that I used his image and wants to take a picture of it when he is in town with me,” Andaluz said.

A close-up of Andaluz’s mural. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

He started painting on Friday, Jan. 31 and realized the location was ideal, even if the wall wasn’t.

“The problem was, the wall wasn’t the greatest, but … where it was from the Barclays Center was amazing, so I said that I needed to compensate for the wall,” the artist said, going on to explain how he had to arrange the crash victims’ around the ridges of the wall’s garage doors. 

Although a big Bryant fan, Andaluz wanted to make sure everyone who died was given a tribute.

“I’m a very spiritual person and I believe everyone has a place,” he said. “As much as I was a huge Kobe fan and saddened by what happened to him, it’s a little disappointing that the other [victims] didn’t get enough shine. We care about those who passed.”

Throughout the six days of creating the mural, his work received a lot of attention from locals.

“It was therapeutic,” Andaluz said. “It was great to have the support of the Brooklyn natives. People from around the neighborhood were coming and taking pictures. Some came multiple times to talk to me. That was really nice.”

Andaluz hopes that Nets players are touched by the painting as well.

“Even though it’s Brooklyn, a lot of people respect Kobe,” he said. “The Nets players, especially Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, look up to Kobe, so I know this is going to mean something to them when they drive to Barclays before a game. I hope it’s an inspiration to them as well.”

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