Kobe Bryant’s talent on the court was only matched by his talent for helping Make-A-Wish kids feel special
Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant died on Sunday in a tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The past week has meant countless stories in the media about Bryant’s career, his family, the effect of his death on the sports and entertainment world, and the collective mourning of all who loved him. But one story in particular tells more about Bryant than any NBA stat or championship — he granted over 200 Make-A-Wish requests during his storied career.
Bryant spent 20 seasons playing basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers, and while his NBA career is one for the ages, it’s clear that giving back meant the world to him. “Basketball is something that will come and eventually go, the beauty in that is trying to use that time to inspire others and provide some sort of escape for them,” Bryant told Time Warner Sportsnet in 2016. “I think that’s something that lives well beyond the game of basketball and is probably most important.”
“Make-A-Wish is devastated to learn of wish granter Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna’s tragic death,” the foundation told PEOPLE. “Kobe granted more than 200 wishes, giving each child hope for a brighter future. Our heartfelt condolences to the Bryant family and all the families who lost a loved one.”
Now, Wish kids are sharing stories of Bryant’s visits, and by all accounts, he was pretty much the best at granting such requests. Jordan Patterson, who met Bryant through the program eight years ago at age 13, remembers their time together fondly. “Meeting Kobe was probably the highlight of my life,” he told Fox 6 News. Patterson, who was battling kidney dysfunction at the time, was flown out to Los Angeles with his family to meet his hero.
“It boosted my spirits so high,” Patterson shared. “I’m really grateful for that … [he] signed all my pictures, took any pictures I wanted, answered all my questions.”
Patrick Moore, whose son Henry got the chance to meet Bryant as a Wish kid, had a similar story of the Laker and his wonderful way with kids. In a now-viral Facebook post, Moore says they went into the visit with few expectations. “We didn’t bring anything for Kobe to sign and didn’t want to impose on him in any way,” Moore said in the post, written on Sunday after news of Bryant’s untimely death began to spread. “We were grateful for Henry just to be able to see Kobe play a game in person. We expected he would take a quick photo and be done.”
After a lengthy visit where Henry got to ask his hero a number of questions, Bryant asked the family why they didn’t bring anything for him to sign — and then, sent an assistant to the Laker’s Store in Staples Center. “The assistant brought back a TON of stuff and Kobe signed it all. He held Henry through much of our visit. The memorabilia is still all over Henry’s bedroom,” Moore recalls.
The family also got to meet Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and their daughters. “Then Kobe said, ‘I hate to ask, but can my wife and kids meet you?’ His wife and kids were so nice and probably spent more than 20 minutes asking about his illness and transplant, and what he liked to do for fun. They were sweet to Sam and Harper, too. Gianna was about 18 months old, and she was almost as tall as Henry. Henry was small for his age then, but Gianna was really tall,” he remembers.
Bryant’s wife Vanessa took to Instagram last night with her own heartbreaking post letting the world know that while her family is grieving their enormous loss, they’re also grateful for the support they’ve received. “My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them,” she writes.
Bryant’s death is being felt deeply by so many, but hearing the memories from kids whose lives he changed with just one visit helps to ease the pain of his loss a bit.