One year after the death of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, it’s clear that the Mamba Mentality lives on.
It’s hard to overstate the larger-than-life baller’s influence, both on and off the court. Known as much for his discipline and determination as for his mastery of his craft, Bryant left a mark that transcended the world of basketball.
A new project headed up by L.A. streetwear studio Advisory Board Crystals (ABC) seeks to honor the legend’s legacy. In concert with visual artist Jonas Wood and jacket designer Jeff Hamilton, a collaborative letterman jacket aims to showcase Bryant’s influences and ethos.
The desire to honor Bryant through a collaboration has been longstanding, says ABC co-founder and creative director Remington Guest. An L.A. native himself, Guest had always admired the athlete’s contributions, both as a basketball icon and through his community engagement efforts. “Kobe was very big on life after basketball,” he said. “So I wanted to focus on something beyond what everyone knows him so well for.”
The jacket’s design eschews the iconic Lakers colors—gold and purple—favoring a more muted taupe. Bryant was reportedly inspired by Chinese-American martial artist and actor Bruce Lee—another athlete-turned-icon whose life was cut short by tragedy—and the jacket is embroidered with the “Fist of Fury” star’s signature quote, “The key to immortality is living a life worth remembering.” The jacket’s front is emblazoned with the words “Eternal Youth.”
An ancient Greek symbol of a snake swallowing its tail, known as an ouroboros, signifies continuity and infinite life. The image of the serpent sitting atop a basketball was designed by artist Wood to pay homage to Bryant’s nickname, “Black Mamba.” It is surrounded by a wreath of greenery that was seen on letterman jackets, designed by Hamilton, that Bryant wore in years past. The jacket features the star’s two jersey numbers, No. 8 and No. 24, on its back. A yin-yang symbol symbolizes his “duality,” Guest said—a ruthless force on the court, and a gentle giant in his dealings with others.
While the jacket’s unveiling coincides loosely with the anniversary of Bryant’s death, which took place on Jan. 26, 2020, Guest said the timing is coincidental. He and his partners began working on the design shortly after his passing and had hoped it would be done by summer. “It actually just took this amount of time to get it done—to work through designs and production and to make sure it was right,” he said.
The collaborators were not looking at the drop as a “marketing moment,” he said, and to underscore the point, just one jacket will be released to the public—for free. To enter the giveaway, which will take place Feb. 5, Instagram users must follow @advisoryboardcrystals, tag a friend, and perform a random act of kindness. Descriptions of those acts must be sent to ABC via email by Feb. 1.
“The Mamba Mentality comes down to not just benefiting yourself, but benefiting humanity,” he said. “That’s where we got this idea to encourage people to pay it forward.” Guest hopes the giveaway will prompt Bryant admirers to share the initiative with their friends and family and create a “chain reaction” of good deeds.
He added that the creation of the jacket was an act of catharsis for himself and his partners. Jacket designer Hamilton created looks for Bryant during his heyday in the ‘90s and early aughts, and has outfitted many NBA stars throughout the years in bold, bright leather outerwear made to excite and inspire. This heartfelt tribute is something altogether different. “If you can heal through art, that’s a cool thing for people to see,” Guest said.
He’s also proud to have contributed an artifact to the basketball star’s legacy in some small way. “For someone that’s well known, there are so many things, like videos and jerseys, that keep them alive—they’re a part of history,” he said. “It’s cool that this jacket can be a part of that. It’s something that can represent him forever.”