The Archbishop of Los Angeles has offered prayers and condolences to the family of LA Lakers legend basketball star Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a tragic helicopter crash alongside his daughter last weekend.
Bryant, 41, a practising Catholic and five-time NBA champion who played for the LA Lakers throughout his 20-year career, is widely considered to be among the greatest players in basketball history.
The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose H. Gomez, said he ‘was sad to hear the news’ and offered prayers for Bryant and his family.
He added that he remembered Bryant as “a very good Catholic, a faithful Catholic” and had met the basketball star on several occasions.
“I remember going to the Lakers’ practice, and I had a good conversation with him,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We are praying for the eternal repose of his soul, his daughter who also died and for the family. It must be a very challenging time for his family. So, let’s pray for him and pray for his family.”
The basketball star died on Sunday, 26th January after a helicopter he was travelling in crashed amid foggy conditions and burst into flames in the hills above Calabasas, California.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna also died in the crash, along with six family friends and the pilot.
Born in Philadelphia on 23rd August 1978, Bryant was raised a Catholic and as a youth lived for a while in Italy. He and his wife, Vanessa, married at St Edward Catholic Church in Dana Point, California, in 2001, and raised their children Catholic. He is survived by his wife and three other daughters. Gianna, also known as ‘GiGi’, was the couple’s second eldest daughter.
Bryant had said that his Catholic faith had helped through low spots in his life, and had strengthened his marriage and ties with his family.
In 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a woman in a hotel room – allegations he denied, saying that they had consensual sex. The charges were eventually dropped but it almost ended Bryant’s marriage.
In a 2015 interview with GQ magazine, Bryant said he relied on his Catholic faith to get him through the dark time and revealed that talking to a priest had been “the turning point”.
“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?’ 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.”
USA Today reported that the aircraft was Bryant’s private helicopter and was flying the party to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, for a girls’ basketball game. Bryant was expected to coach the team, while Gianna was expected to play.
Police have launched an investigation into the causes of the crash.
Picture: Kobe Bryant in action in 2010 for the LA Lakers against the Boston Celtics. (CNS/Robert Hanashiro, USA Today).