The late great Kobe Bryant was so many things – an NBA icon, girl dad, academy award winner. But very few talk about him as a philanthropist, as Kobe always had a heart for those who needed it. Here’s a story to remind you all, shared by Kristen O’Connor Hecht.
The story took place while Kristen was working at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. One day, she was approached by a cardiologist who asked if she could acquire a signed Lakers basketball for a 5-year-old terminally ill fan named after Kobe, who was a huge fan of the purple and gold. Kristen’s first instinct was to call her husband Tom, who was a former Phoenix Suns director of corporate partnerships.
I called Tom at the Phoenix Suns, making the request, believing that there would be virtually no way this would happen. The Lakers were coming to play the Suns later in the week.Kristen O’Connor Hecht
But to her surprise, only a day later, Tom called her and said, ‘He’ll do it!‘ Kristen was thrilled about the news, as she thought about bringing a ball or something to work so a kid can get a tangible memory of meeting his idol. That’s when Tom’s response floored her.
No, he read your story, and he wants to come and meet the little boy.Kristen O’Connor Hecht
So the next day, with neither security nor PR people informed, Kristen waited for Kobe to arrive. Soon enough, thanks to the support of the Colangelo Family, a limousine dropped off Bryant who went to Kristen’s office, where he met a little boy, from where the three of them scrambled up a back staircase to this little boy’s room in cardiac ICU.
For the better part of an hour, they played basketball, passing it back and forth, with little Kobe, laughing, his sweet Mama smiling and laughing. Several autographed items were left, and many photos were taken. The machines keeping him alive were dinging, whirring, and alarming, and his doc was just grinning from ear to ear.Kristen O’Connor Hecht
After getting back to the limo, Kobe turned to Kristen and said, ‘what can I do to help? Is it a financial thing? Because I can take care of that.’ Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The boy suffered from a heart defect to the stage where it was too late for a transplant.
I was floored. I was floored not only by his sincerity and offer of generosity but the kindness and warmth he displayed.Kristen O’Connor Hecht
Only a week after two Kobes met, the little boy passed away. About three weeks later, Kristen got a letter from Little Kobe’s mom describing the power in those moments. She said ‘those were the most joyful moments of his entire life. The photos were the only photos she had of him smiling.’
Kristen went to add: according to Kobe Bryant’s PR people, he did this everywhere, but the deal was – no PR. From that day on, he has been my hero, and when people would tell me they didn’t like him, I would say, ‘Let me tell you a story.’ May God shine eternal light upon your soul, Kobe.
Kobe truly was larger than life, and thankfully, we have beautiful people like Kristen to testify to it. So, next time someone tells you they didn’t like Kobe, make sure to follow Kristen’s example. Simply say ‘Let me tell you a story…’