The nation continues to reel after the shocking news of Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday, January 26. Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in Los Angeles. He and the other passengers were on their way to a basketball game, which Gianna was expected to play in as Bryant coached, according to CNN
In the days since, everyone has recounted his record-setting NBA career. He was drafted right out of high school and played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years. As a Laker, Bryant won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA team and won the NBA MVP in 2008. He also led the USA Olympic Basketball team to two gold medals in Beijing and London. There is no doubt that he made his mark as one of the greatest professional basketball players ever.
Aside from his career, though, friends and family members have shared more about Bryant in the aftermath of his tragic death. From Shaquille O’Neal and Lebron James to Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, many have publicly reflected on his larger than life personality, utter joy in his role as a #GirlDad
and candid sense of humor.
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According to those closest to him, Bryant was just getting started on his second act.
Though Bryant could still be found on the basketball court, he was there for a different reason. He coached his daughter, Gianna, but also hundreds of other kids through his charitable work. His post-basketball passion project was the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation
and the Mamba Sports Foundation
. It’s here that Kobe Bryant wanted to make his greatest impact on the world.
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation
In 2006, Kobe and wife, Vanessa Bryant, launched their foundation, which seeks to provide cultural and educational experiences to kids that may not otherwise have the opportunity. This mission manifests itself in a few different ways.
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The first is through Mamba FC, a youth soccer club that Bryant started in Orange County. In addition to learning the sport, players are also improving on leadership skills, independent thinking, team-building and health and fitness.
The foundation has also been a long-time advocate for homeless youth in the Los Angeles area. Together, Kobe and Vanessa supported homeless youth shelters and resource centers, like My Friends Place, Step Up on Second and United Way’s annual HomeWalk.
Bryant also served as an ambassador for After-School All-Stars, a program that provides academic support, personal enrichment opportunities and athletic programming. For many students, the hours after school are a prime time for joining gangs or experimentation with cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. After-School All-Stars seeks to provide students with meaningful alternatives that will enrich the lives of students, rather than bringing them down.
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He led an effort to add Mandarin language and culture programming to the All-Stars after school experience in order to help American youth better understand the relationship between the U.S. and China. It was said of Kobe Bryant that he was so impacted by his time in Beijing during the 2008 Summer Olympics that he wanted to help strengthen the relationship between the two countries. After the Olympics, Bryant also started the Kobe China Fund to raise money and awareness about education and health programs in China.
Finally, Bryant worked with national charities, such as Stand Up to Cancer and Make a Wish Foundation. He and Vanessa also became founding donors of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Through his charitable work, Kobe Bryant impacted the lives of at-risk students and homeless youths with scholarships
, enrichment resources and housing support. His legacy off the court is one of generosity, compassion and action.
As countless Americans and people around the world mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, many have asked what they can do in order to continue his legacy. CNN states it well: honor Kobe through the charities he supported
As of today, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation have asked that all donations go directly toward Mamba Sports Foundation
, Kobe’s latest venture. This foundation works to provide underserved youths with a vast array of sports programming and opportunities, scholarships to play in school or recreational leagues, and a foundation for life that builds on skills, hard work and dedication.
Though you may not win an NBA Championship, let alone make it on to an NBA team, you can have a lasting impact on the lives of students that need help with scholarship opportunities, academics and every day resources in life that we take for granted. This was Kobe Bryant’s second act, and now we can all play a part.