DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Long Island based artist and lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan Efren Andaluz was devastated when NBA legend Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna and seven others perished in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California.
Although Bryant spent his 20-year career as a Laker, winning five championships, Brooklyn has shown its love for the five-time champion and his daughter. Coney Island’s Parachute Jump was lit up after the crash in Lakers colors, with Bryant’s uniform number displayed on the structure. Elected officials and Brooklyn Nets players also offered their condolences following the accident.
Andaluz added to local tributes by painting a mural of Kobe and Gianna, with the names of the other seven people who died included.
“I have watched Kobe and Shaq since I was a kid,” he said. “It’s very sad what had happened, especially with his daughter. I have a daughter, so it hit close to home. A lot of people tried to get in contact with me because they knew how much of a Kobe fan I was. I didn’t want to talk to anyone that first day. I waited.”
Once he felt a bit better, Andaluz decided that he would create a mural in New York.
“I knew people were doing a bunch in LA but I wanted to do one here,” he said. While he lives in Long Island, he settled on Brooklyn as the ideal spot to create his mural. He used Google Earth to check the surroundings of 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 explained. “That all took a day and a half. Finally, someone got back to me and said that he wanted to do it so I went to Brooklyn and took a look at the wall, to figure out what picture would fit best.”
Andaluz found inspiration in a photo of Kobe taken by Sports Illustrated’s Jon Soohoo. The photo depicts the 18-time all-star lying down on a court with his head resting on a basketball.
Soohoo was impressed.
“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,” Andaluz said.
Andaluz got the necessary materials from Riebe’s Artist Materials in Melville and Sherwin Williams in East Northport and got to work.
He started on Friday, Jan. 31 and realized that the location was ideal, even if the wall wasn’t.
“The wall wasn’t the greatest, but where it was from Barclays Center was amazing,” the artist explained. One of the issues he had to deal with was the quantity of garage doors in the wall. “I had to figure out where to put the words and all the names,” he said.
Andaluz said he wanted to make sure everyone who died was included. “Those lives are also important so I wanted to add their names on the wall as a tribute,” he said.
During the six days it took to create the mural, the work got a lot of attention from locals.
“It was therapeutic,” said Andaluz, who has over 30 murals around Long Island to his credit. “It was great to have the support of Brooklyn natives. People from around the neighborhood were coming and taking pictures. Some came multiple times to talk to me. That was really nice.”
The support kept him working during the cold nights.
“It was very motivational,” he said. “It was cold and tiring after long days but they kind of inspired me and gave me extra energy to keep going.”
Andaluz hopes that the members of the Nets are touched by the painting.
“The Nets players, especially Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, look up to Kobe so I know this is going to mean something to them,” he said. “I hope it’s an inspiration to them, as well.”
Andaluz shares their admiration for the late basketball star.
“It was his mindset, that no one could beat him,” he said. “That’s the mindset of a champion. It was also his work ethic. He worked like no other basketball player. Other basketball players talk about Kobe and say they went to the gym early and he would already be there, doing a full workout hours before the game. It shows how dedicated he was. He had natural talent, but didn’t take it for granted. He really worked hard at being the best.”