Parents vs. Kids Hoops Game Honors Legend Kobe Bryant

St. Michael/St. Malachy hosted a Parents vs. Kids Basketball Game to honor the memory of Kobe and Gianna Bryant around the third anniversary of their tragic deaths. (Photo: Courtesy Brandon Morel)

It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since the tragic death of former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

The Bryants and seven other passengers were among the causalities of a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020 outside Calabasas, Calif. On their way to a youth basketball game at the Mamba Sports Academy, the Bryants had just attended morning Mass.

The career basketball accolades for Bryant are virtually endless. He was a five-time NBA Finals champion, 18-time All-Star, 11-time All- NBA First Team, two-time scoring champion, and the 2008 NBA MVP.

Yet it’s important to also celebrate Bryant’s legacy as a father, and that’s exactly what one of our local parishes did to mark the three-year anniversary of the “Black Mamba’s” passing.

St. Michael/St. Malachy parish in East New York partnered with Salve Regina Catholic Academy to host its inaugural Parents vs. Kids Basketball Game to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant on Jan. 25 in the school’s gymnasium.

About 60 parents and children participated in the two games – one for the third through fifth graders and one for the sixth through eighth graders. Though the results did not matter as much as the meaning of the event, the parents proved they’ve still got some skills, winning both games against the younger competitors.

“Kobe was a practicing Catholic, and his faith did form him in a certain way,” said Brandon Morel, the event’s organizer and the parish’s youth minister. “This event was a way to celebrate Catholic education, Catholic faith, parent-to-child relationships, and striving for greatness.”

An ongoing conversation for Morel and his youth ministers is to engage the parents. Since many of the children are passionate about basketball, a hoops-related event involving the parents turned out to be a great fit.

“We wanted to engage parents, and we wanted to give it meaning,” Morel said. “When we looked at the model of Kobe’s life, we saw this as an opportunity to look to an example from modern time of someone who was active in their child’s life, was pushing them in a positive direction, and was engaged in many ways — just like we’re hoping to see our parents be engaged with their children.”

Between the games, participants took time to reflect on Bryant, his involvement in his daughter’s basketball formation, his Catholic faith, and his role as a parent. A moment of silence and some brief prayers helped attendees pay tribute to Bryant’s enduring legacy.

During the event, the youth ministers sold snacks, and all proceeds will be donated back to the school. There were also free-throw competitions during halftime to keep the competitive juices flowing – as was always the case with Kobe.

“I remember that he (Bryant) never gave up,” said Keven Lopez, a seventh grader at Salve Regina Catholic Academy. “He was a dominant player. He’s a good role model because he was a hard worker. He was always the first one in the gym. I hope Kobe rests in peace.”

It’s so easy to solely remember Bryant for his basketball prowess, but he also must be remembered as a father. A parents vs. kids basketball game was the perfect way to celebrate Kobe as a father in addition to Kobe as the hoops legend.

The event also allowed the parents to take some time to pause from their busy lives to spend quality time with their children. Sometimes we get so caught up with work, stress, bills, and the runaround of daily activities that we lose sight of what’s most important.

As seen with the tragedy surrounding Bryant’s death, we never really know when our time to meet God will come. That’s why we must savor every opportunity we have to enjoy life to the fullest — including some friendly competition with those closest to us.

At least for one night in East New York, the faithful of St. Michael/St. Malachy hit the pause button on their busy lives to remember Kobe and Gianna Bryant through their passion: the game of basketball.

Contact Jim Mancari via email at