A shockwave hit sports fans around the world Sunday over the sudden death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant who was just 41 years old.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles.
Bryant, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years, was considered an NBA legend. There were no survivors, reports say.
Thousands of fans gathered outside LA’s Staples center, where Bryant played for the Lakers his entire 20-year career.
It’s 12:30am and there’s still people outside Staples Center to pay respect to Kobe. Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” + Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” is playing w/ periodic chants of “KOBE!” + “MVP” + “KOBE! BRYANT!” There are 4 different memorials with candles and jerseys pic.twitter.com/WDwbfsomW5— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) January 27, 2020
Bryant, known for his fiery competitiveness, went straight to the Lakers from high school at 18-years-old. He won 5 NBA Championships, two Olympic gold medals and was an 18-time all star.
Bryant is third on the list of all-time NBA scorers – surpassed by Lebron James the night before he died. James spoke about Kobe’s influence on his life as a young man.
Bryant had difficulties in his personal life. In 2003, he was accused of rape, but the case was dropped on Sept. 1, 2004, when the accuser decided not to testify. While Bryant admitted to committing adultery, he denied sexually assaulting the accuser.
Bryant who was also a devout Catholic said at his lowest point, he turned to God, saying that talking to a priest was “the one thing that really helped me during that process,” sources say.
Bryant had difficulties in his personal life, facing a sexual assault charge that was later dismissed in a settlement with the accuser.
The basketball legend described in a 2015 GQ interview how his faith helped him survive the turmoil that engulfed his life when he was accused of sexual assault at the age of 24.
Bryant said it was a priest who helped him to make some important personal realizations during the ordeal.
“Was I afraid of going to jail? Yes. It was twenty-five to life, man. I was terrified. 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. 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?’ 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.
Bryant’s personal struggles continued when his wife Vanessa Bryant, in 2011, filed for divorce from Kobe, citing irreconcilable differences. But Bryant said he decided not to give up on his marriage, and two years later, his wife withdrew her divorce petition.
“I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination,” Bryant told GQ in 2015.
“We still fight, just like every married couple. But you know, my reputation as an athlete is that I’m extremely determined, and that I will work my ass off. How could I do that in my professional life if I wasn’t like that in my personal life, when it affects my kids? It wouldn’t make any sense.”
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 Catholic mass weekly, including the morning of the accident that took his life.
Sports journalist Vickie Vix also tweeted that the departed superstar regularly attended mass when he was in San Antonio, Texas.
“As a Catholic, I always admired the open display @kobebryant had for his faith. He attended Mass at St. Joseph’s in downtown San Antonio whenever in town. St. Joseph, Patron Saint of departing souls, pray for Kobe, and us all,” she wrote.
Singer Cristina Ballestero wrote on Instagram about the first time she met Bryant during a weekday mass at Holy Family Cathedral in California.
“I double took to see…it was KOBE BRYANT IN THE SAME PEW AS ME ON THE OTHER END! I just went about my normal praying and singing as usual cause he like all of us came to pray. Thank God I had the veil so I could stay focused on Jesus not this insanely talented Basketball player my whole family has looked up to and watched our whole lives.”
She described how Bryant then respectfully waited for her to go ahead of him for communion and complimented her on her voice.
“As we went up to communion, he 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. I said thank you and went up to communion.”
Christian Leaders Mourn Kobe Bryant’s Death
Louie Giglio was among one of the many Christian leaders and influencers who mourned the deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Many of the believers who shared their condolences encouraged mourners to look to Jesus and take the opportunity to reflect on the gospel.
“Grateful to be in church today,” he wrote on Instagram. “Such a devastating day across the world with the news of those lost in Kobe’s helicopter crash. Heartbroken and praying. On days like today we all need God’s grace and the message of the resurrection life that is Jesus.”
Christian Evangelist and Apologist Ravi Zacharias said:
Here in the Philippines, we are just waking up to sad and shocking news of the death of one of basketball’s greatest players, Kobe Bryant. Along with his daughter, Gianna, and others on board, he went down to an early grave just as this new year has dawned. Our hearts ache to think of them, especially in their final moments.
Ironically, I am minutes away from speaking at the Philippines Prayer Breakfast on National Bible Day here in Manila, hosted by their boxing great and basketball fan, Manny Pacquiao. The theme for my talk is “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of God abides forever.” Such sudden losses bring all of us into the sobering reality of an appointment we will all have to keep and the vaporous span of life. At the same time, how significant a gift life is.
Our prayers and thoughts for the family are uppermost. Grief limits words but not reality. May God give us all the knowledge to so number our days that we might incline our hearts to His will. May the Everlasting Word bring comfort to them. God, hear our prayers. #KobeBryant
Bobbie Houston, co-founder of Hillsong Church, wrote:
“So very sad ……. Life is so precious, fleeting and unpredictable. I have no connection to this world or these families, yet with many others, I feel deep sympathy for all their families. May ‘the peace that passes understanding’ overshadow and grace them all. #kobebryant (Phil 4:7 NIV) ‘And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'”
Author and Pastor Choco de Jesus wrote:
We lose people every day but there is something about a loss of this magnitude, and in this way, that causes us to pause. We are abruptly reminded of the fragility of life.
Kobe Bryant was an incredibly gifted basketball player. But he was first a husband, father, son, friend, etc. And I speak with almost complete certainty in saying that no one thought the last time they saw him would be the last time.
Today the world mourns his loss, we pray for his wife and daughters. Hug your loved ones, forgive and live a full life – today. Tomorrow, even the next minute, is not known or promised.
Prophet Shawn Bolz said:
John Lindell, lead pastor of James River Church, posted:
“Saddened to hear about Kobe Bryant and those traveling with him. Praying for God’s comfort and presence to touch the hearts of all those affected by this tragedy.”
Rev. Johnnie Moore tweeted, “God, be close to the family of Kobe Bryant & the others who died, to all they loved & to all who loved them.”
God, be close to the family of Kobe Bryant & the others who died, to all they loved & to all who loved them.— Rev. Johnnie Moore ن (@JohnnieM) January 26, 2020
A reminder our lives teeter so delicately between life/death, a breathe’s length from eternity
A reminder of what’s really important in a world rife w/unimportant things
Kobe leaves behind his wife Vanessa, their 17-year-old daughter Natalia, 3-year-old daughter Bianka and a 7-month-old daughter Capri.
Please continue pray for the multiple families that are affected by this tragic accident.