Does a Photo Show a Man Fighting IS in a Kobe Jersey?

An old photograph received new attention in the wake of the NBA icon's death in January 2020.

  • Published 4 February 2020

Claim

A photograph shows a man fighting against the Islamic State with a rocket launcher while wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey.

Origin

Social media was flooded with tributes to Kobe Bryant after the NBA icon’s sudden death in a helicopter crash in late January 2020. As athletes, fans, and celebrities commemorated Bryant, an odd image circulated online:

This was a genuine picture of a man wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey and holding a rocket launcher. However, while some viewers may be under the impression that the photograph was taken in the days right after Bryant’s Jan. 26 death and showed a soldier paying tribute to the late basketball player, this picture is actually several years old. 

The above-displayed image shows a cropped version of a photograph taken by Goran Tomasevic for the news agency Reuters. The photograph was taken on July 15, 2016, and shows a Libyan soldier during a battle against the Islamic State (IS). 

The original photograph can be viewed on Reuters where it was presented with the following caption:

Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fire weapons during a battle with Islamic State fighters in Sirte, Libya, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

The photograph was one of many Tomasevic took in Sirte, Libya, in 2016. Here’s how Time magazine introduced the photo gallery:

A veteran chronicler of armed conflict from the Balkans to Afghanistan to the Middle East and Africa, Goran Tomasevic has covered the instability in Libya over the last five years. But for the past three weeks, the Reuters photographer has been on the ground in Sirt, the ISIS stronghold in Libya where the U.S. launched a series of airstrikes beginning on Aug. 1. The pictures he’s made there provide a raw and intense look at the bid to retake the hometown of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from the extremists, who seized it last year and created their largest base outside Syria and Iraq.

It may be worth noting that another photograph in the same gallery shows a Libyan soldier wearing a Detroit Pistons jersey.