Shortly before they boarded the helicopter which crashed into a hillside near Calabasas California on Sunday and claimed all nine lives on-board, Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna attended Catholic mass and prayed together at their local church, a church spokesman reported.
The NBA star, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter attended the 7 am service at the Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Newport Beach, and they reportedly sat at the back of the service, received communion and left early to avoid disturbing fellow parishioners.
The service was held by Father Anthony Vu, a Vietnamese parochial vicar at the church.
Julie Hermes of Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church confirmed to The Daily Mail:
“He attended the 7 am mass prior to going to the Orange County John Wayne Airport. I imagine he went straight to the airport because the mass was 7-8 am. I’m told generally 7 am was his mass.
“He was very discreet. He would come in and stay at the back, and his family too, and then he would usually leave a little earlier prior to the very end of the service. He was very much loved at the church, and he was very devout, very dedicated to his faith.”
Bishop Timothy Freyer of the Orange Diocese posted on Facebook:
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H Gomez tweeted,
So very sad to hear the news of #KobeBryant’s tragic death this morning. I am praying for him and his family. May he rest in peace and may our Blessed Mother Mary bring comfort to his loved ones. #KobeBryantRIP pic.twitter.com/QYMRL7RvCL
— Abp. José H. Gomez (@ArchbishopGomez) January 26, 2020
Bryant was considered by many to be one of the best basketball players in history. A larger-than-life figure, Bryant thrilled fans of the Los Angeles Lakers during the twenty seasons he played for them. Named the best high school basketball player in the USA, he entered the National Basketball Association immediately after graduation and helped win the Lakers five national championships.
According to ESPN, he was the Lakers’ leading scorer.
The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported that the athlete was raised in a Catholic family and credited his Catholic faith for getting him through bleak times in his life.
Back in 2003, Bryant’s career and personal life hit an all-time low after he was accused by a woman of rape. Bryant admitted that he had intercourse with the woman, but denied rape. The court judge dropped the charges against him, but the woman still filed a civil lawsuit against him and they settled out of court.
Because of the scandal, advertisers wanted nothing to do with Bryant, and his wife Vanessa filed for divorce. But during that bleak moment in his life, Bryant knew who to turn to – God. He went to church and talked to his priest, and the conversation was really enlightening for the sports star.
Bryant told GQ Magazine in 2015,
“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?’ 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.”
Bryant took the priest’s advice to heart and sought to live his life better. Eventually, he and his wife got back together and have even started their own cause called the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF), which encourages young kids to develop their physical and social skills through sports and charity work.
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