Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna attended church and took communion hours before they died along with seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26, in Calabasas, California, according to the late NBA star’s priest.
“He was here before the 7 a.m. mass, and that’s our first mass of the day. So he would obviously have been in the prayer chapel before that and he was leaving about 10 to 7,” Father Steve Sallot of Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach, California, told Los Angeles’ Eyewitness News.
On Monday, January 27, parishioners at the church prayed the rosary for the victims of the crash, which was reported at 9:47 a.m. local time on Sunday.
Others in Newport Beach shared fond memories of Bryant, including Nima Farokhirad, vice president of operations at Krave Kobe Burger Grill Newport Coast, which had constructed a wall in the basketball champ’s honor before his death. “That was a wall of fame, we like to call it, and a tribute for what he’s done for the community,” Farokhirad told Eyewitness News.
Fans also paid tribute on Monday at the Bryant family home in Orange County, California, including Asu Gokdelen, who was on vacation from Istanbul, Turkey, with her family. “When we heard the news we were very sad. … We wanted to visit this place and give our condolences,” Gokdelen told the outlet, adding that saw Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers debut in 1996 when she was a student at USC.
Neighbor Ryan Williams, a partner of the Athletes First foundation, shared his memories of Bryant in a string of tweets on Sunday. “Sept. 2018: Kobe witnessed someone crash into me at 65 m.p.h. He ran to my car. He helped. Most of all, he was kind,” he wrote. “A week later, he saw me and my family at Starbucks. He told my wife how lucky I was to be alive. From that time on, whenever we’d see him in Newport Coast, [California], he continued to be kind. A fist bump to my son … a high five to my daughter … a word of wisdom to me. … Kobe was a legend of a human.”