See inside a Watts gym renovated with help from Vanessa Bryant and the Lakers

The Nickerson Gardens housing complex, originally designed in 1955 by prolific architect Paul Revere Williams, had a special connection to Kobe Bryant and his youth basketball program.

Inside the renovated gym at Nickerson Gardens in Watts Monday May 20, 2024.

Vanessa Bryant joined Nickerson Gardens residents Monday for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of refurbished gym at the public housing community in Watts.

Nickerson Gardens, managed by the Housing Authority of Los Angeles, was chosen for the project by the widow of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. The decision was made, in part, because it's the former site of the Boys and Girls Club where Kobe Bryant hosted his "Mamba League" youth basketball program.

"The site is a special location for my family," Vanessa Bryant said. "He used basketball to teach life lessons to young boys and girls.

"It serves as a reminder to all the boys and girls who play here that they are loved."

The ribbon cutting was inside the renovated gym and basketball court featuring a mural of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna designed by artist Brian Peterson.

"Eleven days of Mamba Mentality got us here," Peterson said of the gym renovation project.

Peterson created the "Forever Courtside sculpture" at the Anaheim Dream Court in Pearson Park. The sculpture features the smiling faces of Kobe and Gianna Bryant next to a basketball court in the park. He also created "More Than an Athlete," a mural of Kobe Bryant kissing the Oscar trophy her won for "Dear Basketball," on the fourth-floor terrace at Ovation Hollywood.

Peterson's first Los Angeles mural, "We Will Rise Above," showcases Kobe Bryant and Dodgers star Mookie Betts in the parking lot of Philippe the Original near Union Station.

USC's National Freshman of the Year and Wooden All-America honors recipient JuJu Watkins, who grew up in Watts, was at the ceremony. She said the murals of Kobe and Gianna Bryant will be an inspiration to young players at the court who are enjoying the game the Lakers legend and his daughter loved.

"Accessibility is everything," Watkins said. "Growing up, I was chasing my dreams. I didn't really have access to an indoor gym. So, to see Vanessa and everybody just come together and create something amazing for the community and allow young people to pursue their dreams is just amazing."

Nickerson Gardens was originally designed by Paul Revere Williams, one of Los Angeles' most prolific architects. The housing complex has 1,066 units and shared open spaces, including a central playground.

Vanessa Bryant is the chair of the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. The nonprofit aims to create opportunities for underserved young athletes in honor of Kobe Bryant and 13-year-old daughter Gianna, killed in a January 2020 helicopter crash northwest of Los Angeles.

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