Final Fantasy Artist Posts Loving Tribute to Kobe Bryant
Yusuke Naora, the art director for Final Fantasy X and several other series titles, posted a touching and personal tribute to the late basketball superstar.
Tributes to Kobe Bryant keep pouring in from the world over, as millions continue to grieve over the basketball icon’s death in a helicopter crash last week.
One of the greatest basketball players ever, Bryant enjoyed a 20-year career in the NBA — all with the Los Angeles Lakers — that, over time, saw his influence reach far beyond the sport he played. Turns out that influence, perhaps unknowingly, had an effect on one of the most storied franchises in video games.
Yusuke Naora, the art director for several Final Fantasy games, posted his own tribute to Bryant on his Twitter account Saturday. The tweet features a portrait of the basketball superstar in Naora’s style, along with a personal story of Naora’s love for basketball and how Bryant and the Lakers’ signature purple and gold colors had an impact on the art design for Final Fantasy X.
— 直良有祐 naora yusuke (@NaoraYusuke) February 1, 2020
Naora wrote that he got hooked on the NBA and Michael Jordan, the leading star of those dominant Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s, then started following Bryant’s career in Los Angeles. He went on to say that during the development of Final Fantasy X, he was lost when trying to determine the color scheme for the game’s airship, the Fahrenheit, but remembered the Lakers’ colors and “took in the sky.”
“A few years ago, at an LA launch event [for Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster],” Naora wrote. “I was rejoiced to tell fans about this episode.”
Naora worked at Square Enix for 24 years, and had a hand in the art design for 19 Final Fantasy projects. He was the art director for Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X, and XV, and contributed to a number of other mainline entries and spinoff titles, including the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. He left the company as a full-time employee in Sept. 2016, two months out from XV’s launch
Naora’s basketball fandom is no secret. His Twitter header and profile picture are of him at Los Angeles’ Staples Center during a game last season, holding up a sign he created of current Lakers star LeBron James. His pinned tweet is also of him presenting a portrait to Dennis Rodman, another star of the 90s Bulls, in April 2016.
“Watching the Bulls, I became so fond of playing basketball that I was so happy to be able to pass on the picture!” Naora wrote.
There have been other tributes to Bryant within the video game sphere. NBA 2K20’s development team made an update to show a memorial image of Bryant when the game starts, and many of its players have been wearing yellow Lakers gear in his honor while in “The Neighborhood” online hub. A Fallout 76 player also built a basketball-themed shrine in its PC version, which has been visited by others to pay their respects.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and nine others died in the crash last Sunday in Calabasas, California. The group was on its way to Gianna’s basketball game that morning. Bryant was 41.
His wife, Vanessa, made her first public comments since the crash on Wednesday, and the Lakers played their first game since receiving the news Friday night. The team held an emotional pregame ceremony to honor their fallen star.