Crowds flock to Kobe mural created overnight

A larger-than-life portrait of Kobe Bryant has drawn visitors to the parking lot behind Priority Barber Club, where a mural of the late basketball star was finished, Monday, by artist Misteralek.

Owner Johnny Garibay, who opened the shop about a year ago, said he met the painter through his brother. When he heard the news of Bryant’s passing, he called Misteralek who started working on the portrait Sunday night.

“He was down,” said Garibay. “He was like, ‘Let’s get started right now.’ I said, ‘Dude, it’s dark!’ He’s like, ‘I got lights.’”

A group poses in front of the newly painted mural of the late Los Angeles Laker great Kobe Bryant, by artist Misteralek. Photo by Stephen Carr

Garibay, who heard the news around noon on Sunday, said he didn’t want to believe it, that he grew up watching Bryant as a kid. He felt especially torn when he heard the news of Bryant’s daughter Gianna because he has a nine-year-old son.

“I can’t imagine how terrible that pain feels,” he said.

The artist, who grew up in South LA’s graffiti scene, and has created other tribute murals around Los Angeles area, including one of Nipsy Hussle, said the more he kept hearing about the story the sadder it got.

“It felt like someone I knew had passed away, that’s how bad it was,” Misteralek said. ”It feels pretty amazing to be able to leave something for the community. It’s also a way for me to deal with this pain right now. This helps me a lot, it’s like therapy for me, I paint every day.”

The artist said he is planning on adding a portrait of Gianna to the mural, possibly later next week.

Marianna Gravett of Seal Beach, who came to visit the mural with her two daughters, shed tears contemplating “why someone not related to you could mean so much.”

Marianna Gravett of Seal Beach stands in front of a mural of Kobe Bryant at Priority Barber Club with her two daughters and barber shop owner Johnny Garibay. The mural was finished Monday by artist Misteralek. Tuesday, Jan. 28. Photo by Asia Morris.

Gravett, once an avid basketball player, said she religiously watched Bryant during his career, glued to the television. She said she ran into Bryant at a Los Angeles pizza restaurant in 2001 “when he still had an afro” and recalled a moment during their conversation when a kid wanted Bryant’s autograph and he happily beckoned him over.

“He was so gracious,” said Gravett. “And as a parent of young African American girls [myself], the way he embraced parenthood and Gigi and put in so much effort with her, made me respect him even more. In areas you couldn’t be excellent at, he never let you down.”

“I’m sad, but I’m happy he’s here and people get to enjoy it,” said Garibay. “A lot of people have come by, hundreds of people I’ve never seen.”

The artwork is near the corner of Wardlow Road and Orange Avenue in the parking lot next to Steelhead Coffee; 1208 E. Wardlow Road.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.