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Sport Designer casket honoring Kobe Bryant is 'nothing people have ever seen'

16:45  24 february  2020
16:45  24 february  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Designer casket honoring Kobe Bryant is ‘ nothing people have ever seen ’. Kobe Bryant was a longtime Los Angeles Laker, an NBA franchise that plays its home games at the Staples Center. Since his death, the nation has mourned the loss of the 41-year-old NBA Hall-of-Famer, who was an 18-time

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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. — Last week, casketmaker Fletcher Collins loaded a customized tribute memorial into a rented van before he and a couple of friends drove cross-country from his business in North Carolina's Mount Olive community of Elizabethtown to Los Angeles.

a person taking a selfie in a room: Fletcher Collins, owner of Glorious Custom Designs, shows off a memorial casket that he built in honor of Kobe Bryant on Feb. 12. © Melissa Sue Gerrits, The Fayetteville Observer Fletcher Collins, owner of Glorious Custom Designs, shows off a memorial casket that he built in honor of Kobe Bryant on Feb. 12.

Collins’ destination over the roughly 2,260-mile trip is a public memorial service being held Monday for basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna “Gigi,” at the Staples Center, nearly a month after their deaths in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash in California.

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There, in front of the center on Tuesday, he unveiled to the public what he calls his masterpiece, the “Staples Center,” which he dedicates to the families of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter and the seven other people killed in the accident.

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Kobe Bryant was a longtime Los Angeles Laker, an NBA franchise that plays its home games at the Staples Center.

Since his death, the nation has mourned the loss of the 41-year-old NBA Hall-of-Famer, who was an 18-time All-Star and 15-time member of the All-NBA Team.

Bryant, Collins said, was one of his favorite professional basketball players.

“I loved what he brought to the game,” he said.

Collins, who has built customized designer caskets for roughly a decade over his 47 years, said social media led to what he called this humbling assignment. Through social networking, he added, a friend of Bryant’s family reached out, asking if Collins could create some type of memorial art to honor Kobe and the other victims.

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“I tried to capture everything about him,” said Collins, who also is an assistant pastor at Greater Temple Holiness Church in Elizabethtown.

Painted largely in Laker purple and gold, the memorial casket is overlain with a mock-up of the Staples Center hardwood court, complete with miniature basketball goals on each end and 24-second clocks. One side is trimmed with what is intended to be the Los Angeles skyline.

At center court, on top of the casket, are five gold miniature NBA championship trophies representing the number of titles Bryant won with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“RIP Gigi,” can be read on one side of the memorial in tribute to Gianna.

“Mamba Out” (Kobe gave himself the nickname “the Black Mamba) is inscribed on the other along with the numbers 24, 9, 2 and 9.

Over his career as a Laker, Kobe wore the numbers 8 and 24. His daughter won the number 2 as a basketball player at Harbor Day School in California. As for 9, it represents the total number of people who died in the helicopter crash.

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“This is nothing people have ever seen. This is something I created,” Collins said from his work site off Collins Place on the edge of Elizabethtown. “And the whole vision behind it — I cannot take the pain away. I try to capture moments to bring back life, energy, and the inspiration of the loved ones and their legacy.”

The casket, which he said cost $13,000, was built over three and a half days. Donations helped defray the cost, and the names of those donors have been added to a picture of Kobe’s jersey that is meant to be part of the tribute memorial set.

Before the trek to L.A., the casket rested on a black drape that covered a metal table inside Collins’ weathered paint booth. The old concrete-block-and-wallboard storage building, approximately 36 feet long by 30 feet wide, was cluttered at one end with paint cans, carpentry tools, a chair and a rusting garage heater.

This isn’t the first special casket that Collins has designed, crafted and painted.

In the past, he has built custom caskets for a 6-year-old boy who drowned last year in the Chattachoochee River near Columbus, Georgia, and one for Frank Lucas, the notorious drug lord played by actor Denzel Washington in the 2007 crime film “American Gangster.”

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It is that same contact, the man who reached out to him to build the Lucas casket, who put Collins “in the mix of the Bryant family and friends,” according to the casketmaker.

“He grew up playing with Kobe’s father,” he explained. “He put out my work to them. My name came up to do something. Right now, the family don’t have no clue about what I did design. From everything I’ve been told, they know I’ve done something.”

Collins said the family friend opted not to do media interviews about the Kobe Bryant tribute in respect to the Bryant family.

As for where Collins hoped to have the customized casket placed once he reached Los Angeles, he said last week, “That, I won’t know until I once get there. That will be up to the Staples Center and the family to make that decision.”

If they are not interested in keeping his work, he said he intends to put it up for auction and use the proceeds to start a nonprofit.

Related slideshow: Kobe's life in pictures (Provided by photo services)

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Designer casket honoring Kobe Bryant is ‘nothing people have ever seen’

Los Angeles County sheriff says he ordered deputies to delete Kobe Bryant crash photos .
Sheriff Villanueva told NBC News the sheriff's department does not have a "specific" policy about taking photos on personal cellphones, but that may change. "We're redoing the entire policies, creating new ones that are very specific with teeth in them," Villanueva said. "Up to putting a penalty of discharge for the violation of these policies. Just cause of the sheer impact: the negative consequences to the organization on top of the harm that it causes to people in the public.

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