By Tim Harfmann
There are many ways to describe Kobe Bryant: five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, two-time Olympic medalist, and a Catholic.
According to a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, California, Kobe was spotted Sunday, Jan. 26 at the church prior to 7 a.m. Mass, just hours before his untimely death.
But the 41-year-old also turned to faith in dark times in his life. He was accused of rape in 2003. The charges were later dropped.
Kobe Bryant's legacy on the court is well known: 20 seasons, 18 All-Star appearances and 5 NBA Championships. But the late basketball legend’s story off the court was complicated – and he credits a Catholic priest with helping him save his marriage.
Posted by Currents News on Monday, 27 January 2020
In a 2015 interview with GQ Magazine, the lifelong Catholic described his fear of being sent to prison for a crime he believed he had not committed.
“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,” Kobe said.
He then devoted his life to creating a better relationship with God and his family.
Father Peter Purpura, pastor at Our Lady of Hope Church and a lifelong NBA fan, said Kobe’s move to stay true to the faith could inspire other Catholics.
“That will be a source of consolation for people going forward, to realize that the faith was a consolation and something that guided Kobe in his life; and so it can be that for us now,” he explained.
Kobe also inspired thousands of children in the Brooklyn Diocese. Rob Caldera, head of the Catholic Youth Organization, remembered the star as a role model for parents and coaches.
“All the kids wanted to wear his number on their CYO uniforms,” he said. “Kids would write his number on their sneakers. They would wear his sneakers that he came out with…He impacted everyday moms and dads to give back and to provide for the youth.”
Families Brooklyn and Queens weren’t the only one’s following in Kobe’s footsteps: in his own retirement, he dedicated his life to his daughter’s playing career.
He was a man of faith, who impacted thousands of all ages.