Catholic News Agency
Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Southern California, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Bryant, the father of four, was Catholic.
In all nine people were killed in the Jan. 26 crash.
Bryant, 41, is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He retired in 2016 after a 20 year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, in which the shooting guard won five NBA championships, a league MVP award, two scoring championships, and myriad other distinctions.
Bryant was raised in a Catholic family, and spent much of his childhood living in Italy. He married in 2001 in a Southern California parish.
Bryant and his wife have been reported to be regular parishioners at an Orange County, California parish, and after his death, some on social media said that he had been seen at Mass before the helicopter ride that ended his life.
Some also reported seeing him at weekday Mass in California.
Singer Cristina Ballestero posted on Instagram Jan. 26 a story of her encounter with Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California at a weekday Mass.
“As we went up to communion, [Bryant] waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice.”
“His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision,” Ballestero added.
Bryant also had connected his Catholic faith to a family commitment to help the poor, through the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The foundation helped fund youth homeless shelters and other projects aimed at serving the poor.
“You have to do something that carries a little bit more weight to it, a little more significance, a little more purpose to it,” he said in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Homelessness “is one that kind of gets pushed on the back burner because 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.”
“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 said.