A North Carolina Man Traveled Cross-Country So He Could Display His Viral ‘Masterpiece’ Honoring Kobe Bryant At The Late Legend’s Memorial
Fletcher Collins says the piece is not a casket and instead calls it a "masterpiece."
February 25, 2020 at 6:26 pm
A North Carolina artist drove cross-country to display a piece of artwork honoring the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant and other victims of the tragic helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Fletcher Collins wanted to display one of his custom-made tribute pieces near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, during the Celebration of Life Memorial Service honoring the victims on Monday and told Blavity that's exactly what he did.
The custom creation includes the Los Angeles skyline, the Lakers basketball court, nods to Bryant's hometown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his MVP trophies and the number 24. Despite news outlets reporting the piece as a casket, in an interview, Collins told Blavity that he prefers it to be called a “masterpiece.”
Collins said his artwork doesn’t look like a casket because he “took the feel of a casket away.”
“When you hear the word casket, the first thing you think about is death,” Collins told Blavity. “What I try to do is make a reflection of life. I don’t like the word death, I don’t represent death, I represent life and the legacy of the loved ones.”
He said his vision was meant to communicate “the spirit of Kobe Bryant will live, not only with the Lakers team every time they hit the floor of that court, but the fans that embraced that coliseum.”
While detailing his motivation behind the artistic rendition, he also shared some highlights from the 2,500-mile trip which included multiple stops along the way.
“This road trip, it’s history in the road trip coming and going,” Collins told Blavity. “We stopped in Lumberton, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, a place on the other side of Atlanta, we did it in Mississippi, we did it in Louisiana.”
Collins seemed touched by the outpouring of love he received while traveling to Los Angeles.
“The expressions of their love for him and the love that they showed towards us for what we’ve done. All I can say is it was overwhelming,” Collins said.
Collins’ company Glorious Custom Designs was started as an auto body and detailing shop after he learned the trade from his father.
“The process in my mind was over two weeks, but that’s on the mental side. But on the physical side, three and a half days,” Collins said. “Now I worked all the way through the day and the night now, it was straight working. Because I wanted to make sure I was done in a timely fashion, so I can get on the road and get down there before the 24th."
He left on February 16 with his manager, Lamar Burno, and arrived in Los Angeles two days later. The two visited different spots in the city, including gas stations and Shaq’s restaurant parking lot to give fans an opportunity to see the “masterpiece.”
“We even been on Crenshaw Boulevard. The people over there got a chance to take their pictures and shed tears, give their take on him and his life and legacy,” Collins said. “So we had the experience of a lifetime, and sad as the situation is, all this took place during Black History Month. It’s so many combinations that took place and the level it took place, just overwhelming.”
Collins said although he hoped the “masterpiece” would make it inside the Staples Center he's glad it didn’t. He said it “did more justice outside.”
“People got a chance to get up close and personal, they got a chance to touch it, take their pictures with it and they might not have had that opportunity had it been on the inside,” Collins said.
Collins said he started making these tribute pieces in 2013 when his father was admitted to the hospital and subsequently passed away 30 days later. He called his dad his “first customer.”
He said he also made a similar "masterpiece" for the real Frank Lucas after his death in May 2019. Lucas was depicted in the movie American Gangster with Denzel Washington.
Collins said he builds these tribute pieces because he knows “the pain of losing loved ones.”
The piece has been shared widely online, and Collins told Blavity that he is preparing to display it in Philadelphia.