Little Kobe Bryant with friends from Reggio Emilia – (Baldini + Castoldi)
Before the tragic crash, on January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant was at Mass with his daughter. Like every Sunday. Because he is never remembered enough, but the former NBA basketball champion, who died at the age of 41, kept the gift of the Catholic faith to himself. If we do not take this dimension into account, we will continue to outline the identity of a basketball legend only as a man captured by his ego and his manic professionalism. While we know because he himself trusted it several times, faith had saved him in the darkest moments of his life. Both when, due to his infidelity, he had risked crushing the marriage with his wife Vanessa, which also caused her to have a miscarriage due to the tensions of that period. And both when he had to deal with the rape charge (later dismissed): “I was twenty-five years old. I was horrified. The only thing that really helped me during that process. I’m a Catholic, I grew up as a Catholic, my children are Catholics – was talking to a priest. And he said to me, “God will not give you anything that you can not meet, and now it’s all in his hands. It’s something you can not control, so let it be.” And that was the turning point. ”
A further confirmation of the education Kobe has now received comes from a book written by a childhood friend of his, Christopher Goldman Ward, during the period when little Bryant lived in Italy. In fact, before he became a world-famous champion, Kobe lived from six to thirteen years in our country. Because of his father Joe, a professional basketball player who wore tank tops by Rieti, Reggio Calabria, Pistoia and Reggio Emilia. In Italy he learned to read and write and also to shoot a basket. And he never forgot those years. A past he was proud of, as evidenced by the names of his daughters: in addition to Gianna Maria (who disappeared with him at the age of 13), Natalia Diamante, Bianka Bella and Capri Kobe. And then the beauty of our places, the cheers of Milan, the friends he had left and often returned to hug. A world of memories that now also appears in this volume My Kobe. The friend became playful (Baldini + Castoldi, ppage 158, 17 euros). The author, Ward, born in Varese, of an American father and an Italian mother, tells of the period he lived together in Reggio Emilia, and a bond that has lasted over time. He was 11 years old when the “slim” one year younger arrived in the gym, but which everyone has already described as a basketball phenomenon. A boy so determined that he had no doubt that one day he would walk across the parquet of dreams with stars and stripes. Just like he did in 1996 when he debuted with his Lakers, amidst the wonder and pride of his Italian friends from the past who did not seem genuine their Kobe on TV with the yellow-violet tank top. How many times, Ward remembers, had they challenged each other to infinite one-on-one. Not just for the basket, but also for the best video games that went crazy in the eighties. And then the many afternoons in the Bryant House in Reggio Emilia, where it was enough to cross the threshold to breathe American air.
A strange chapter that seems random, but which turns out to be significant, is about little Kobe at the nuns’ school. For as Ward notes: “Pam and Joe (Kobe’s parents, oath) they wanted not only an education for their children but also an education in Christian values, and they chose the San Vincenzo de ‘Paoli Institute’. It was here that the upcoming basketball star gained a solid cultural background as well as some sensitivity to the things in life. Already as a child he showed attention to the weakest and from an early age it was clear that he was a true perfectionist. An almost obsessive cult of discipline on which he has built his amazing career: Five NBA titles with his only team, the Los Angeles Lakers, two Olympic golds and an impressive array of personal records. Yet even “the black mamba” (the nickname he himself had chosen) had to admit that supermen do not exist. Sooner or later, we all come to terms with our weaknesses. But in the most difficult moment, Kobe grasped the secret of Christianity, repentance, and the strength to rise again. And that morning he was at Mass again to thank those who had given him the joy of life back by removing weights from his heart that seemed greater than him.