Most diehard basketball fans have a Kobe Bryant story. Visual artist and designer Louis De Guzman can recall his clearly. In 2016, the Chicago native had just relocated to Los Angeles and was working with streetwear designer Don C on a series of basketball socks with Stance for the NBA All-Star Weekend games. Aesthetically nodding to the surrounding Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day holidays, De Guzman’s designs and colorways drew inspiration from both he and Don’s home team, the Bulls. When Stance and the NBA approved the designs, De Guzman figured they were going to be sold as commemorative items only. So he and his family were surprised to see Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and other players during the All-Star telecast cross the TV screen wearing the blue and red versions of his designs. 

“The next thing you know, I see Kobe walk out, and I’m like, ‘Wait, is Kobe Bryant really wearing these socks right now,” De Guzman says. “I literally cried.” The moment was even more significant because it was Bryant’s last year in the league. Even over the phone, the weight in De Guzman’s voice is palpable. The power of that memory still moves him four years later. “That's like seeing a superhero not knowing who you are, but participating in something that you created,” he continues. “And for [Kobe] to wear those on his last All-Star appearance was just an honor.”

For the past decade and a half, De Guzman, 30, has made a fruitful career turning small ideas into major moments. The multidisciplinary artist has created everything from album covers and jumbo abstract illustrations to furniture designs and 3D sculptures, working with the likes of J Balvin, Nickelodeon, the Chicago Bulls, and Hennessy, among others. Most recently, he created custom apparel memorializing Bryant for Quavo’s halftime performance during the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.