The Kobe Bryant Story That You Haven’t Heard
Entering the NBA right out of high school at the age of 18, Kobe Bryant needs no introduction. Spending his entire 20-year career with the L.A. Lakers, Bryant won five NBA Championships and was a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and an 18-time All-Star before retiring in 2016. But he wasn't just a basketball player, he was also a husband, father, and friend.
Bryant and his wife Vanessa met in 1999 and were married in 2001. Together, they had four daughters, Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri. When Bryant's private helicopter went down on Sunday, January 26, it not only claimed Bryant's life, but also the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa, Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at a K-8 private school in Orange County, and two other unidentified individuals.
While most well known for his basketball achievements, Bryant also gave back and in big ways. According to Look to the Stars, Bryant was a supporter of After-School All-Stars, Aid Still Required, Cathy's Kids Foundation, The Kobe Bryant China Fund, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer, and the Vijay Amritraj Foundation.
Following Bryant's death on Sunday, my friend and former co-worker, Doug S. shared with me this incredible story -
Kobe used to put on an annual charity event called Kobe Bowl. It was basically a bowling marathon to benefit his charity for kids. Well, back during the 1999 season Kobe had some eBay auctions going on to go towards his fundraising for that year’s Kobe Bowl. He had some pretty cool items that went for a lot. Some of them were personal items. One auction was even the cast from when he had a broken wrist earlier that season. Another one of the auctions was for a signed pair of his personal game issued sneakers (not game worn but copies of Adidas KB8 II’s that Adidas had given to him to wear in games and such). Well, I had placed a bid on this eBay auction knowing full well it wouldn’t likely hit the reserve he had on it and it didn’t. The auction ended, the reserve wasn’t met and that was that... or so I thought. A few days later I get a message through eBay requesting a phone number to contact me. Ok, probably one of his reps wondering if I’ll make a donation to his charity I thought. The next day I get a call and the guy on the other end says “May I speak with Doug?” I said, “Speaking.” “Doug, this is Kobe Bryant. I see you bid on my auction but it didn’t hit the reserve.” After the shock of Kobe actually calling to chat with me, I explained to him, “Yeah, I assumed I wouldn’t, but you know I thought I’d try at least.” Then Kobe went on to explain Kobe Bowl, the fundraising it did and how much it meant to him to give back and invest in youth. “That’s awesome. I really respect that,” I replied. “I’ll be glad to make a donation.” (I mean Kobe just called MY house! Here, Kobe, here’s $50 just for the opportunity to talk with you on the phone I’m thinking.) Kobe says “That’s actually why I’m calling you. I was wondering if you’d like the sneakers for what you bid? I know you didn’t hit the reserve, but I’d still like you to have them and its for my charity. I called you personally because I wanted to tell you about the cause. I know eBay won’t acknowledge the transaction so I thought I’d ask you in person so you would know it was legit.” I said, “Of course.” Then he thanked me, we chatted for just a few more moments and then I told him to have a great game against the Grizzlies that night (come to find out he was calling from Vancouver). A few days later the shoes and a photo of Kobe holding them arrived. So yeah, Kobe sent me a signed pair of his own personal sneakers because he was a class act. Much love to you and your family, Black Mamba. You’ll be missed not only for what you did on the court, but what you did off it as well.
There's no doubt that Bryant was an unbelievable basketball player, but when he wasn't on the court, he was giving back. Each of us can do the same - give back to the world around us however we're able.
The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do. -Kobe Bryant