A Tribute to Kobe Bryant

~3 minute read

I still remember walking into school the day after each of those five NBA championships – the halls abuzz with shouts and high-fives, my friends decked out in their purple and gold.

I’ll never forget seeing the Lakers in person for the very first time as a junior in high school. There was nothing like watching one of the all-time greats play the game he loved with his unrivaled tenacity and passion.

For years I witnessed the magic and cheered along with family and friends. We, Southern California natives, were the heart of Lakers Nation.

When Kobe’s career came to a close, I watched again as both #8 and #24 were hoisted up to the heights of Staples Center. We celebrated his countless wins and immortalized his legacy forever.

Kobe’s death this past Sunday hit close to home.

Only four days earlier, my closest childhood friend came to visit, and Kobe Bryant happened to come up in conversation.

My friend and Kobe were both members of the same Catholic Church in Orange County, CA. My friend told me how he saw Kobe at the morning Mass faithfully every Sunday. With his 6’ 6” frame, he was hard to miss.

Kobe and his wife, Vanessa, witnessed to the strength that comes from prayer and the Sacraments, remaining together in marriage all these years in spite of trials that rocked their past.

As a couple, they loved their four daughters dearly, and they went beyond themselves to build up the youth and families both in their home parish and in the wider community.

On the day Kobe’s third daughter, Bianka, was baptized, my childhood friend happened to walk into the church in the middle of the ceremony. He saw Kobe and Vanessa surrounded by loved ones and proudly holding Bianka, dressed in her beautiful white garments.

Kobe and my friend talked for a brief moment afterward, and all Kobe could talk about wasn’t basketball, but family.

Few people could match the worldly accomplishments of Kobe Bryant. Yet, this icon and legend knew what was most important.

Through baptism, he gave all of his children over to God. And every Sunday, even on the morning of the crash, Kobe went to Church – to pray and to give his life over to Christ.

It seems that, to Kobe, the illuminated purple-gold jerseys and his five championship rings were second to the white robes of Heaven and the imperishable crown of Christ. (cf. Rev. 7:9; 1 Cor. 9:25).

May Kobe and all the faithful departed be raised to the heights of Heaven, whereby the enduring victory of Christ, they will be of that number, immortalized with God forever.

+ John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli

+ Kobe and Gianna Bryant

+ Sarah and Payton Chester

+ Christina Mauser

+ Ara Zobayan

Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace.

Please pray for Vanessa, the Bryant children (Natalia, Bianka, & Capri), and all their families.