WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJZ) — Kobe and Vanessa Bryant were founding donors for the 2016 opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. and the NBA legend even donated his jersey after a moving visit to the museum.
The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation donated at least $1 million to NMAAHC and the Bryants were among the museum’s first visitors.
“We at the National Museum of African American History Culture mourn the sudden and tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and the seven other victims of Sunday’s helicopter accident. Along with basketball fans, sports enthusiasts, and people the world over who loved Kobe Bryant and admired his passion for basketball and his family, we extend our most heartfelt condolences. We also extend our deepest sympathies and love to Vanessa Bryant and their surviving children Natalia Bryant, Bianca Bryant, and Capri Kobe Bryant,” Spencer Crew, interim director of the NMAAHC, said in a statement.
We at NMAAHC mourn the sudden and tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and the seven other victims of Sunday’s helicopter accident.
For his many gifts to the museum, we are forever grateful to Kobe Bryant and will miss him deeply. pic.twitter.com/bMexwjWSN9
— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) January 28, 2020
“For us at the NMAAHC, Kobe holds a very special place in our hearts. In the very critical stages of building the museum, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant became founding donors, giving us the boost that we needed to keep moving forward. Kobe also had the opportunity to visit the museum before its opening,” Crew continued. “He was so moved by the experience that he later donated his uniform jersey from the 2008 NBA Finals, the year he was named the league MVP.”
That jersey is not currently on display at the museum, but a photo of Kobe Bryant is on display in the sports gallery.
Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian, shared his memories of Bryant.
“I will always remember Kobe Bryant’s generosity and support during the opening of NMAAHC,” Bunch tweeted, “I feel deep sorrow for the loss of a great athlete and a friend of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. My deep sympathy to the Bryant family.”