Retired NBA superstar and practicing Catholic Kobe Bryant reportedly attended mass just hours before he was killed in a helicopter crash along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others Sunday.
“A friend texted me today to tell me that a friend of her’s saw #KobeBryant at #Catholic Mass this morning. Mass is the worship of God. Heaven is the worship of God. Go to Mass here so that you can worship God forever in heaven,” David Barnes, a Catholic priest and director of the Catholic Newman Center at Boston University, said in a tweet Sunday.
The Christian Post reached out to Barnes’ office for further details but he was not immediately available to discuss the claim. The information from his tweet has since been reposted across social media platforms as fans around the world reel in the aftermath of the death of the Los Angeles Lakers star at 41.
The helicopter Bryant was traveling in on Sunday was flying from Orange County, California, where Bryant lives with his family. It crashed in foggy conditions about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles as it was en route to Bryant’s youth basketball academy, The New York Times reported.
While Bryant’s mass attendance on Sunday morning could not be independently verified by CP, the late basketball legend described in a 2015 GQ interview how his faith helped him survive the turmoil that engulfed his life when he was accused of sexual assault at the age of 24.
“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 said.
Sports journalist Vickie Vix also tweeted that the departed superstar regularly attended mass when he was in San Antonio, Texas.
“As a Catholic, I always admired the open display @kobebryant had for his faith. He attended Mass at St. Joseph’s in downtown San Antonio whenever in town. St. Joseph, Patron Saint of departing souls, pray for Kobe, and us all,” she wrote.
Actress and singer Cristina Ballestero also shared a story on Instagram about a time when she met Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California.
“Right as mass begins I see a huge shadow in my right peripheral vision and hear a decently loud creak from probably a big man. I double took to see... it was KOBE BRYANT IN THE SAME PEW AS ME ON THE OTHER END! I just went about my normal praying and singing as usual ‘cause he like all of us came to pray. Thank God I had the veil so I could stay focused on Jesus not this insanely talented Basketball player my whole family has looked up to and watched our whole lives,” she wrote.
She described how Bryant then respectfully waited for her to go ahead of him for communion and complimented her on her voice.
“@marydallal @mandymissyturkey and a couple other friends saw him standing behind me going to receive Jesus. And we talked about it after mass and freaked out together. It was such a cool experience to receive Jesus right before him, and also, to walk up to receive Jesus together. It was also cool to see him come for a weekday mass,” Ballestero wrote.
“His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision,” she added about the sexual assault allegations that were made against him.
“Him and his wife do so much great work with their foundation. I’m heartbroken at the news of his death, alongside his daughter Gianna. My prayers go out to his Family, friends and loved ones. Eternal rest grant unto him, and her oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they Rest In Peace, Amen. We love you Kobe & Gianna,” she ended.
Shareef O’Neal, son of Bryant’s former teammate Shaquille O’neal, posted a screengrab on Twitter of a text conversation between himself and Bryant from Sunday morning in which Bryant asked: “You good fam?”
That message was sent at 8:19 a.m.
Shareef, who is also a basketball player, recently announced that he was leaving the University of California – Los Angeles, after just playing 13 games this season. He missed his entire freshman season last year due to a diagnosis of a right anomalous coronary artery, forcing him to undergo open-heart surgery.
“Recently I found out I had a serious heart issue. I am very blessed to be here living today,” Shareef wrote on Instagram in September. “One of those moments on the court could’ve been my last breath.”
At 10:58 a.m., Shareef replied to Bryant: “Yeah! Just getting this work in trying to figure out my next move. How you been?”
A call for a downed helicopter and brush fire in Calabasas went out at 9:47 a.m., Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.