By Jim Fair
Kobe Bryant, 41, widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, died January 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
One of his four children, 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also died in the crash, along with seven others. Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and three daughters — Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, seven months.
Bryant, who was raised Catholic and reportedly has become more involved in his faith in recent years, credited a priest with providing the guidance he needed in the wake of a 2003 incident in which he was charged with sexual assault, although he said the circumstances were consensual. Although the charges were eventually dropped, Bryant lost sponsors and realized he needed to make changes in his life.
Bryant said it was a priest who helped him to make some important personal realizations during the ordeal, according to a 2015 interview in GQ Magazine. He told the publication he had fear of being sent to prison.
“The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest,” Bryant said in the interview.
“It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ‘Did you do it?’ And I say, ‘Of course not.’ Then he asks, ‘Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ‘Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point,” Bryant said.
Twitter and other social media were flooded with expressions of condolences for the loss of Bryant and with prayers for his family. Among those offering prayers is Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angelas, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. US President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama also offered prayers and condolences.
Bryant was drafted directly from high school into the National Basketball Association (NBA) and play 20 years, all of them with the Los Angelas Lakers. He retired in 2016. His long list of athletic accomplishments include:
- Five NBA Championships
- 18-time NBA All-Star
- 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player
- Two-time NBA season scoring leader
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