I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea… Isaiah 48:17-19
Kobe Bryant is a name recognized by almost everyone, even non-sports fans. An outstanding basketball figure, a shooting guard, Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for twenty years, earning All-Star status in only his second season. He led the NBA in scoring in the two seasons between 2005 and 2007, earning 81 points in a single game in 2006, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s record.
Born in Philadelphia in 1978, Kobe’s parents raised him in the Catholic Church, and he remained a practicing Catholic until his death. In fact, on the very morning of the helicopter crash that took his life and the lives of eight others on January 26, 2020, Kobe and his daughter Gianna attended Mass together with the rest of their family before the two headed on to a youth basketball tournament. Both had received, though unknowingly at the time, their Viaticum, the Bread of life for their final journey.
When he was just six years old, Kobe’s family moved to Italy. His father had retired from the NBA and decided to play professional basketball in Europe. There, young Kobe had a happy early childhood where he quickly learned the Italian language. He had begun playing basketball at age three, and his family encouraged him. When he was thirteen, the family returned to live in Ardmore, a suburb of Philadelphia. Attending Lower Merion High School there, Kobe embraced his talent on the court and honed his skills with an incredible work ethic. He also encouraged his teammates to strive to do their best.
While he considered various colleges during his high school career, he decided to go directly into the NBA, and was signed on by the Charlotte Hornets and then traded to the Lakers where he rose to legendary success. Even in his final game, he scored 60 points. But his career was not all a series of successes. He faced struggles, too, and some days were very dark. In fact, he created his nickname “Black Mamba” in order to deal with some of those struggles. He explained the name as a kind of alter ego, helping him to sort out personal trials and still keep a competitive edge on the court.
Kobe was not unaware that we all face a dark side in our lives, perhaps especially as he worked to successfully save his marriage after being accused of rape in 2003. Suffering injuries throughout his career, he managed to work to heal and continue practicing, often enduring intense pain. But when he tore his Achilles tendon in 2013 and then injured his knee and his shoulder respectively in the two following seasons, he realized his body was declining. So, Bryant decided to retire from his beloved sport after the 2015-16 season.
Known as a family man with many talents, Kobe Bryant expressed his faith in many philanthropic activities. He supported after-school programs to children in many U.S. cities. He partnered with a charity providing health and education programs within China. He donated a great deal to help U.S. veterans return to civilian life after service duty. With his wife Vanessa, Kobe started a foundation to help youth in need develop physical and social skills through sports. He assisted the homeless. While the list goes on, these are just some of his heavenly trophies, inscribed in hearts everywhere.
Kobe Bryant is our thirteenth Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
Do you accept the talents you have and hone them with hard work?
When you receive the Eucharist, do you realize it could be your food for the final journey?