Kobe Bryant Was A Man of Faith
NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant’s 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers made him No. 1 of all-time of NBA players who played for a single franchise. Entering the NBA directly from high school, he won five NBA championships with the Lakers, was an 18-time NBA All Star, became the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points, was the leading scorer in Lakers franchise history, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
Bryant was also known for his many other stellar achievements; among them:
- Decorated Olympian,
- Passionate Humanitarian,
- Proud husband and father, even
- Oscar-winning filmmaker
But what many don’t know is that he was a man of faith, who spent his last moments – before boarding the flight which took his life on Sunday, January 25, 2020 – at church.
Early that morning Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, attended the family’s Newport Beach, CA church, Our Lady Queen of Angels. According to the church’s priest, Father Steve Sallot, the Bryants took time to worship there before the 7AM service. On his way out, Kobe discussed with Father Sallot his desire to make a deeper commitment to Christ by becoming confirmed. Confirmation is the Catholic sacrament which affirms one’s Christian identity.
BORN TO WIN
Born in Philadelphia, PA on August 23, 1978, Kobe Bryant started playing basketball at the age of 3. He and his 2 sisters were raised in Italy after his father, former NBA player Joe Bryant, retired from the NBA to play there, and as a result, the Bryant children spoke fluent Italian.
Also tradition in Italy, the Bryant children were raised in the Catholic faith; a tradition which Kobe and his wife Vanessa continued with their 3 daughters.
Kobe and Vanessa married just barely out of their teens, during the meteoric rise of Kobe’s star as an NBA player. Then, just 2 years later came both the brightest and darkest moments of his life: the birth of his first child, and his sexual assault case involving a young hotel clerk. The bond of the Bryants’ marriage was greatly tested during this time and the charges were later dropped, but Kobe found clarity and strength in repentance, and in his Christian faith.
So when he began to look beyond his basketball career toward his retirement, he knew that he wanted to devote his time giving back to those who were less fortunate, especially the young.
In 2007, Kobe and his wife founded the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF). Mamba Sports Academy, named after Bryant’s on-court monicker, is part of the foundation and includes clinics on soccer, beach volleyball, jiu-jitsu, and basketball, in which his daughter, Gianna, also participated.
From the Foundation’s website:
The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF) is dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families in need…encouraging young people to stay active through sports…[and teaching] young athletes how to become leaders and independent thinkers, while working together as a group to achieve a common goal through health and fitness.
Other initiatives of the Foundation address homeless youth; partnering with established nonprofits which have been leading the charge. “It’s easy to point the blame at those who are homeless and say, ‘Well, you made that bad decision. This is where you are. It’s your fault,’ said Kobe in an interview with the LA Times. “In life, we all make mistakes and to stand back and allow someone to live that way and kind of wash your hands of it … that’s not right.” He wanted to inspire children who were subjected to homelessness to know that they were not born to lose, but to win.
UPLIFTING MEDIA: GRANITY STUDIOS
Close to his heart seemed to be the desire to help all children, in spite of their backgrounds, to grow to be the best that they were born to be. In 2013, Bryant formed Granity Studios with the goal to impact lives through storytelling, to inspire and empower young people, and to foster diversity in entertainment for future generations.
And in 2018, Bryant became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and the first former professional athlete to be nominated and to win an Academy Award in any category for his film, Dear Basketball.
The film is a devoted love letter to basketball, the tool which helped to establish powerful qualities within him as a child; qualities of greatness such as his famed discipline and laser-like precision. Kobe was passionate about helping all young people learn to develop those skills too.
A MAN OF FAITH
Kobe Bryant’s Christian faith was at the core of his success as an NBA player, his growth as a man, his commitment to keep his marriage and family strong, as well as the humanitarian endeavors he was passionate about at the end of his life. Even his last Twitter entry was sent to uplift someone else: fellow Laker and NBA history-maker, LeBron James.
“I don’t want to be too cheesy and quote Spider-Man,” Kobe once said, referring to the message of Luke 12:48, “but with great power comes great responsibility.”
WATCH NOW: Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning animated short, DEAR BASKETBALL, below:
Featured Image: Kobe and Vanessa Bryant celebrate with daughters Gianna (who perished with him in the crash) and Natalia, as Kobe is honored on “Kobe Bryant Day” at Los Angeles City Hall, August 24, 2016.