It’s been over a year now since Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, tragically passed away in a helicopter crash in Southern California. While much of the initial coverage surrounding the heart-breaking news paid tribute to Kobe’s legendary basketball career, many reports of his strong Christian faith have also surfaced in the months following the crash.
Years ago, after a rape allegation threatened to derail his marriage, Kobe turned to God—determined to save his marriage from divorce. What started as a regretful decision to be unfaithful to his wife, which he later repented for, turned into a stunning example of God’s mercy, as Kobe grew closer to God over those tough months. Terrified to lose not only his wife and kids, but also permanently ruin his professional career, Kobe leaned back into his Catholic faith and the counsel of a local priest. In an interview with GQ, Kobe reminisced on the conversation he had with the priest. After briefly talking through the incident and getting a definitive “no” from Kobe in regards to the accusation, the priest simply 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.” For Kobe, that was the turning point.
Years later, Kobe continued to lean on his faith, frequently attending a local parish near his coastal Newport, California home and practicing meditation and mindfulness on a regular basis. In an interview, Kobe reflected on his daily meditation practice, “It’s like having an anchor. If I don’t do it, it feels like I’m constantly chasing the day, as opposed to being controlled and dictate the day.”
It was so evident that up until his very last day, Kobe was absolutely committed to God. Amidst a wildly busy career in the NBA—filled with travel, managing the media, brand partnerships, and of course, hours upon hours of basketball, Kobe consistently showed up for his daughter Natalia’s first Holy Communion, a two-year process. After scoring 60 points in his final NBA game, Kobe celebrated the win the next morning with a cup of coffee and headed off to church. And just minutes before boarding that helicopter with his daughter, Kobe stopped by the Lady Queen of Angels Parish to pray in the chapel.
With unbeatable talent and a drive to perform, Kobe was one-of-a-kind and rightfully, beloved by many, but like the rest of God’s children, he wasn’t perfect. Amidst seasons of struggle and a great tragedy, comes unshakable faith; the story of a man who poured his heart out on the court for years, but gave his heart to God for forever.