In the month since the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash that claimed nine lives (including that of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna), many fans have been looking for ways to memorialize the basketball star. One of the more popular choices has been through tattoos. According to The Los Angeles Times, tattoo studios throughout South California—where Bryant lived and worked for over 20 years—have seen such massive demand for Kobe Bryant memorial tattoos that it’s been hard to keep up. Some tattoo artists are now booked solid for months, and one studio even said its business has tripled from the memorial tattoos alone.
Memorializing someone using tattoos is not uncommon. In fact, many people get names, birthdates, and even portraits of their loved ones and heroes tattooed, so the rise of tribute tattoos in response to Bryant’s death is only natural.
Often referred to by his nickname ‘Black Mamba,’ Bryant left a deep, lasting impression on fans. To many of them, he was more than a basketball player. He was a role model—a symbol of perseverance, a loving father and husband, and a philanthropist. Although his legacy is no doubt complicated—in 2003 he was charged with sexual assault, although the case was later settled and the charge was dropped—his supporters are choosing to focus on the good things he did throughout his storied career.
Fans aren’t the only people getting Kobe Bryant memorial tattoos, though. Many of his famous friends have opted for ink as well.
Lebron James, who just a day before the crash broke Bryant’s long-standing point record making him the third highest scorer in the NBA, got a tribute tattoo. So did the LA Lakers’ Anthony Davis, Shareef O’Neal (Shaquille O’Neal’s son), and rappers 2 Chainz and The Game. Some of these tattoos also pay tribute to Gianna Bryant. Gianna was an incredibly talented up-and-coming basketball player and her jersey number ‘2’ has been included in memorial tattoos on Sharia Washington (Kobe Bryant’s sister) and soccer player and long-time family friend Sydney Leroux.
Tattoos also feel like a fitting way to pay homage to a man who loved the art form. Bryant had several visible tattoos, including a large forearm piece of the names of three of his four daughters. Per The Los Angeles Times, which interviewed Bryant’s go-to tattoo artist Mister Cartoon, the retired basketball star had an appointment to get his youngest daughter’s name tattooed, too. It was set for just a few days after the crash.