Black Catholic Project: Kobe Bryant (1978-2020) Seen as a legend and hero in the sports world, Kobe Bryant is not projected as the devout Catholic that he was. His great success, through discipline and hard work, inspired many. At his core, he was about faith and family. Kobe was born in Philadelphia in 1978 in a sports-minded family. Both his father and uncle were NBA athletes. Kobe’s involvement in the sport began at age 3. His father retired from the NBA when Kobe was 6 years old and the family moved to Italy, where his father played on different Italian teams. Kobe reported that the first of those seven years in Italy were difficult for him. Initially, he didn’t speak Italian so had no friends. It was lonely. It was through basketball he was able to make friends and make connections. He worked to improve his basketball skills through constant practice and hard work. This developed the character and discipline that were part of his outlook and motivation in life. The Bryant family returned to Pennsylvania, when Kobe was a junior in high school. He continued his devotion to basketball training and his disciplined practice brought great success to his school, whose team became state champions. Although Kobe was religious, he was not known for making religious statements. His faith was his guiding light that was revealed extensively after his death. He was not "known for wearing his religion on his sleeve," but he did wear his religion on his arm and body through his tattoos, many of which were religious symbols. His devotion to the Rosary was primary in his life. Before the helicopter crash that killed him and his 14-year-old daughter, Gianna, he talked about adding a tattoo of the rosary. He didn’t live to fulfill that wish. Two hours before Kobe and his daughter took that fatal flight they both attended Mass. After his tragic death on January 26, 2020, a Catholic parish neighbor to his made multiple rosaries for parishioners of Kobe’s home parish – Our Lady Queen of Angels – in hopes that they would bring healing and help the grieving process. But the story doesn’t end there. During his career he accumulated great wealth. Kobe believed in the statement, "To whom much is given, much is expected." Kobe supported many charitable causes including his own family foundation dedicated to improving lives of youth and families in need. Kobe Bryant Painting by Archie McPherson, age 13 - Part of the 2020 Black Catholic Heroes Project Images of Black Catholics painted by students employed by the College for Creative Studies’ Detroit Neighborhood Arts Corps (used with permission) Resources " Religion in the Life of Kobe Bryant " by Michal Mazurkiewicz, Journal of African American Studies , volume 25, pages 324-338 (2021). Kobe Bryant - Inspirational Video by Mateusz M https://youtu.be/JHVMW3U5BZE "Once Upon a Time..." | Kobe Bryant by NBA https://youtu.be/spll56K7ZNg Reflection Question 1. What most impressed you about Kobe Bryant? 2. What was your reaction to the facts that he was a devout Catholic and committed to charitable works? 3. What other professional athletes can we admire for their character and inspiration? 4. Kobe was motivated by discipline and hard work. What motivates you in your life? Prayer Giver of all gifts, we praise and thank you for all the talents given to each of us. May we be inspired by Kobe’s determination to use his athletic talent to the best of his ability. May we have generous hearts and remember and help those in need. Amen.