Fact Check

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 Feb 4, 2020

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 22:  Detail of the jersey of Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers as he faces the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 22, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 111-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Image Via Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Claim:
A photograph shows a man fighting against the Islamic State with a rocket launcher while wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey.

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.

Sources

Katz, Andrew.   "Dispatch From Sirt: Goran Tomasevic Photographs Libya's Battle Against ISIS."     Time.   2 August 2016.

Reuters.   "Libyan Forces Battling Islamic State in Sirte Suffer Losses in Push to Advance."     15 July 2016.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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