Kobe Bryant’s Greatest Achievement:  Redemption

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/01/28/kobe-bryants-greatest-achievement-redemption/

Since his shocking, sad death Sunday, the accolades for Kobe Bryant have poured in, non-stop, much like the way he scored baskets, starring for the rival Los Angeles Lakers. What Bryant did on a basketball court, for so long – averaging 25 points a game for 20 seasons – merits prolonged applause. His team averaged an NBA championship every four years while he was in uniform, the last of the five coming in 2010, beating the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game 7. He was truly one of the NBA’s greatest players.

All that and more explains the overwhelming coverage of Bryant’s death, at the age of 41. Bryant was one of nine people killed, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Countless media stories show photos of Bryant celebrating another achievement or, heartbreakingly, pictures of him and Gianna — one of his four children, all daughters, born to his wife Vanessa.

He has been called a legend, as well as a doting father.

Along with that … no, well before that … another word comes to mind.

Beyond being a superstar and a super-dad, Bryant is redeemed.

“Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt.

A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew in me.” (Psalm 51: 11-12)

Bryant had his troubles. A brilliant jump shot does not make man immune from darkness. Bryant, married in 2001, was arrested for rape two years later in Edwards, Colorado. His fame turned from popular to notorious. I still remember the surreal footage from 2004, of Bryant attending hearings in Colorado during the day and then flying to Los Angeles on a private plane, to play for the Lakers in the playoffs.

Bryant claimed his encounter was consensual, not an assault. The case never went to trial because the alleged victim, a 19-year-old woman, would not testify. Bryant issued an apology – “Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure … Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”

During this time, Bryant leaned on his Catholic faith. During a 2015 interview with GQ magazine, Bryant recalled the time of the legal hearings.

“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.’ … And that was the turning point.”

A civil lawsuit was eventually settled, leaving Bryant free from his self-induced burden, but certainly not free of problems. His marital infidelity was obviously out in the open and, apparently, there were other troubles. His wife filed for divorce in 2011. Bryant worked to save his marriage, and did. The divorce never happened. The man, for all his mortality, at least knew his priorities.

“Cast me not from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Give me back the joy of my salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me” (Psalm 51:13-14).

Psalm 51 reflects the thoughts of King David after he repents from his outlandish sin (adultery, along with murder to cover it up). David is considered a great king, not because of his perfection, but because of his desire to seek mercy. Hardly trouble-free afterwards, David remains faithful.

Bryant, for all his basketball stardom, reportedly put faith and family first after his fall. A parishioner at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, California, Bryant practiced his faith. The morning he and his daughter were killed, they attended 7 a.m. Mass.

Bryant is a man who stumbled. Apparently, he also is a man who loved. Eternal rest, grant unto him.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn” (Psalm 51: 19).


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.