By Christopher White, National Correspondent
NEW YORK — Following the untimely death on Sunday of Los Angeles basketball superstar Kobe Bryant — a practicing Catholic who had previously credited a priest with saving his marriage — the city’s Catholic archbishop offered prayers and condolences to his family.
“So sad to hear the news of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death this morning,” wrote Archbishop Jose Gomez on Twitter. “I am praying for him and his family. May he rest in peace and may our Blessed Mother Mary bring comfort to his loved ones.”
In another message, one of L.A.’s auxiliary bishops, Robert Barron, also offered his condolences, describing the death of the “legendary basketball icon” as “shocking.”
“We pray for the repose of his soul, along with the others killed in the helicopter crash. May the Lord grant them his mercy and welcome them into his heavenly kingdom,” he wrote on Twitter.
Bryant, age 41, along with his thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna, were killed with seven other passengers in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. No immediate cause of the crash has been determined.
Widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of his time, Bryant played his last game in April 2016, capping off a two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won five national championships and was an 18-time All-Star pick.
Bryant was the youngest of three children — raised by Catholic parents in Philadelphia and, eventually, in Rieti, Italy. He married his wife, Vanessa Laine, at St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in Dana Point, California in 2001.
Two years later, Bryant was accused of raping a woman in a hotel room — allegations that he denied. He did, however, admit to having sex with her, leading to a separation between his wife and him. She eventually filed for divorce in 2011.
In an interview with GQ magazine in 2015, he reflected on how the two eventually reconciled following the advice of a Catholic priest.
“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,’” he told the interviewer.
“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,” he continued.
The couple went on to remain married, and in December 2016 gave birth to their third daughter, followed by another this past summer.