Kobe Bryant - a soul transformed by the Catholic faith
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Kobe Bryant, the legendary basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, perished along with eight other people when his helicopter crashed in Southern California on Sunday, January 26, 2020. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna was among the victims. What may not be known about Kobe Bryant, is that he was Catholic and that faith changed his life.
Kobe Bryant was a lifelong Catholic and the faith appears to have transformed his life.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Legendary basketball player, Kobe Bryant, 41, died on Sunday along with his daughter, Gianna, 13, when his helicopter crashed near Calabasas, California.
Most fans, and even people who don't follow sports, know Kobe Bryant was a legendary player. The details of his career are widely known, and it is understood he is one of the greatest players of all time. It is also well known that his life was previously plagued with scandal, including a rape allegation in 2003 and a troubled marriage. Bryant retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016 after a 20-year career. What is not well known about Bryant is that his Catholic faith transformed him during those troubled times.
Bryant was a lifelong Catholic. He married his wife, Vanessa, in 2001 in a Southern California parish. But his life took a troubled turn in 2003 when he was accused of raping a woman in a Colorado hotel. Bryant always said he understood the encounter to be consensual. However, the woman disagreed and charges were filed. Bryant lost sponsors and supporters, but not his faith. Recognizing that he had committed a serious sin, Bryant turned to his priest for advice.
According to Bryant, his priest simply asked if he committed the crime. Bryant denied it, so his priest told him to give the problem to God, since it was in His hands anyway. Bryant said that meeting was a turning point in his life.
Eventually, the charges against Bryant were dropped, and he issued a public apology during a civil settlement of the case.
In 2006, Bryant and his wife founded the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The foundation typically provides minority students with what it calls "life-changing experiences designed to broaden their global perspectives." The foundation also provides scholarships for the Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy.
Troubles returned in 2013 when Bryant's wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce. With wealth, fame, and a future, Bryant could have reacted any number of unhealthy ways to the filing, but he chose to fight for his marriage. His faith was clearly a factor in that decision, and Vanessa withdrew her petition in 2013. Since then, the couple has appeared at Mass together on many occasions. Several parishioners in Orange County, California reported seeing Bryant at Masses, both on Sundays and weekdays.
Allegedly, there are social media reports that Bryant attended Mass just before the crash.
It is clear that Bryant's faith was important to him and it had a transformative impact on his life. This is how all faith should work. Faith which does not transform a person isn't faith --it's nothing. Obviously, Bryant like so many young, famous celebrities, explored a dark and deadly career of temptation and sin. Clearly, this was a struggle for him, but it appears to be a struggle he won once he turned to his faith for guidance and strength. For this reason, Bryant's life is an example of how we are called to be as Catholic Christians. We are called to abandon sin, to fight for our marriages, and to participate in our parish communities through attendance at Mass and charitable works.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles extended his condolences online, "So very sad to hear the news of Kobe Bryant's tragic death this morning. I am praying for him and his family. May he rest in peace and may our Blessed Mother Mary bring comfort to his loved ones," the Archbishop tweeted. After the Archbishop posted his condolences, it was announced Bryant's daughter was also on board.
As for the crash, a total of nine people perished when the helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76B belonging to Island Express Holding Corp, was lost while flying in dangerous conditions. The helicopter was built in 1991. Information regarding the helicopter's history and maintenance has not yet been made public.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, conditions in the area were foggy, and below the minimum requirement for flying helicopters. The Department's own helicopters were grounded Sunday morning due to the fog. Footage of the crash site also showed fog in the area. However, it is not clear if the crash was caused by weather or another problem. Witnesses to the crash say the helicopter was descending rapidly when it crashed into a hillside.
An investigation is underway. Funeral arrangements for the victims have not yet been announced.
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