Kobe: Guardian of an American Cultural Institution

John Thomas Mills, De Mond Shondell Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of Kobe Bryant will forever loom tall in the annals of American basketball. While some describe it as a game, a business, a series of coupled industries, or an American pastime, we argue that basketball serves as a cultural institution. Moreover, this paper positions Kobe Bryant among the standard-bearers of a social institution rather than a game…and argues that Kobe, for fans, admirers, competitors, and the institutional establishment of basketball, he is part of the embodiment of ideals, hopes, aspiration, and goals of a people as they are expressed through American culture. While the formative years of the career of Kobe Bryant may have been fraught with a series of doubts, uncertainties, and indiscretions, he became the embodiment of a cultural identity, an international icon, and a transformational figure both on and off the basketball court. Additionally, by Bryant being memorialized, in the form of formal and informal memorials and the newly renamed, NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP, his legacy transcends the immediacy of a game or the year of a season and lends to the contributions to basketball as a cultural institution and to the American ideal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-178
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of African American Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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