Murals have been one of the most prominent ways fans have paid tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant since their deaths on Jan. 26, 2020

By Jason Duaine Hahn
January 25, 2021 03:59 PM

In the days following the tragic accident that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant last year, something beautiful materialized along streets around the world.

One-by-one, hundreds of brightly colored and intricate murals appeared on the walls outside of buildings and storefronts in Los Angeles and beyond, all in tribute to the Lakers legend, his daughter, and the seven others who died in a helicopter crash on the morning of Jan. 26, 2020.

Many of these large-scale art pieces were shared across social media, and one of the most prominent places to find them has been through the Instagram account, @KobeMural.

The page, created by Los Angeles native Mike Asner in the days following the accident, has served as a virtual archive of these murals and as a map to their locations. As of Monday afternoon, the account is followed by nearly 90,000 people.

"I just hope it uplifts," Asner, a 38-year-old photographer who runs the page as a hobby, tells PEOPLE. "I'm doing this for all the families, but I hope it's uplifting for anyone who wants to pay their respect or pay tribute either at a tangible location or online. "

Kobe and Gianna Bryant mural
Credit: Mike Asner/@KobeMural/ instagram

Ahead of the first anniversary of the accident on Tuesday, Asner released a tribute video he made in collaboration with 24 of the artists who've been featured on the page, including Gustavo Zermeño Jr., Jonas Never, and China-based artist Louis Z.

"What Kobe did for Gigi was amazing, and I just wanted to show that love and affection of him guiding her," artist @Sloe_Motions, who depicted Bryant and Gianna as angels in his mural, says in the video released on Sunday night.

Some of the artists told Asner that memorializing the five-time NBA champion — who is survived by his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and their three daughters, Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 18 months — helped with their grief.

"I've heard that it's been therapy for them," he says. "It's therapeutic for me too. It's been nice to have that synergy of, 'Hey, we're all trying to do this to uplift each other, to connect with one another and to be there for one another, but most importantly, to be there for the families and the people who were really close to those that we lost.' "

"I'm incredibly inspired by them, and I truly mean that," Asner adds of the artists. "What they have done has helped us all heal and grieve, and for them to put forth these powerful images that are meant to inspire and teach and carry on their legacy, I'm so grateful."

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On Tuesday, Asner says he will be thinking about the families who lost loved ones in the crash one year ago. Those killed were John AltobelliKeri AltobelliAlyssa AltobelliSarah Chester, Payton ChesterChristina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.

"I think we're all grieving and there's been an outpouring of love," Asner says. "It's been difficult and it's hard to comprehend, and I just want us all to keep the families in their thoughts and prayers."

Kobe and Gianna Bryant mural
Credit: Mike Asner/ @KobeMural/ instagram

When asked how Bryant has impacted him personally, Asner says he and his brother bonded over watching the basketball legend over his 20-year career in the NBA, all of which took place in Laker purple and gold.

"Kobe was a unifying figure of Los Angeles and the unifying figure for my family," he explains. "That's the best way I can put it."