Kobe Bryant Gave Back to Underserved Communities Just as Much as He Gave His All on the Court
The late basketball icon donated thousands of dollars and hours of his time to charity
The Bryant family founded The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF) in 2007 to help improve the lives of those in need and encourage young people to stay active with sports.
The foundation has contributed to causes like Kids in Sports Los Angeles (with a $20,000 donation) and COACH for Kids and Their Families (with a $75,000 grant to help provide screenings and services to underserved neighborhoods in L.A.). It's also hosted a holiday celebration for homeless and at-risk families from My Friend's Place, during which parents and their kids received holiday gifts, food and photos with Santa.
“For us, for the studio, it is trying to connect important messages that we want our youth to get to understand, to grow with and to evolve with,” Bryant told the outlet in September 2019. “Then we start looking at sports and there is a connection with the story and the sport itself.”
Through Granity Studios, Bryant released his Oscar-winning Dear Basketball animated film and several sports-inspired books, including The Wizenard Series: Season One, which he co-wrote with Wesley King, and Legacy and the Queen, which he co-wrote with Annie Matthew.
For Legacy and the Queen, the athlete tapped tennis superstar Serena Williams as his muse.
"💪🏾 @serenawilliams let’s do this today. The queen of tennis as a muse to #legacyandthequeen. Always an inspiration to the next generation. Let’s goooo!" Bryant wrote on Instagram in 2019, alongside a photo of himself and Williams.
The story follows 12-year-old Legacy, a girl who loves tennis but is too poor to afford formal training, and her mission to win an annual tennis tournament to earn the cash prize that could help save her family's orphanage.
"I hope #legacyandthequeen inspires you to find that magical light within to guide you thru the dark #liveyourdream," Bryant wrote of his book.
"I’m always game for talking about building confidence in young people and putting imagination back into sports," the late star wrote of his visit to The View in September 2019 to talk about his podcast, The Punies.
The audio series follows a young boy named Puny Pete, who loves to play sports with his neighborhood friends, and his many adventures and lessons he learns along the way. There are currently two seasons, with episodes like, "Righteous Rivals," "Trust Your Crew" and "Know Your Teammates."
Kobe granted more than 200 wishes through his partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Meeting Kobe was probably the highlight of my life,” Jordan Patterson, who met Bryant eight years ago, when he was 13, told TV station WITI.
Patterson, from Wisconsin, was fighting kidney dysfunction and was able to meet Bryant after he and his family were flown out to L.A.
“It boosted my spirits so high,” Patterson told the station of the 2012 visit. “I’m really grateful for that … [he] signed all my pictures, took any pictures I wanted, answered all my questions.”
Through his family foundation, Bryant also helped fund the National Museum of African American History & Culture. He became a milestone donor (having contributed $1 million or more) and tweeted on the museum's opening day, “Go. See. This. Museum. There is no greater testament to this country than the stories in this building. Honored to be a part of it @NMAAHC.”
In 2009, the star was inducted as a national ambassador for After-School All-Stars, a free program that helps kids flourish in five main areas: health and fitness, academic readiness, STEM, career exploration and visual and performing arts.
Outside of his creative endeavors, Bryant has taken to the streets to meet with students, children and underserved communities across the country.
The late star surprised students with a holiday visit at a local school on Dec. 19, 2018, in Mission Viejo, California.
Bryant made a visit to a football centre during the 2010 FIFA World Cup on June 27, 2010, in the township of Soweto, South Africa, to spend time with the kids and families in the community.
The star is seen here speaking with evacuees displaced by Hurricane Katrina during Kenny Smith's Hurricane Katrina relief effort and the NBA Players Charity Game event on Sept. 11, 2005, at Prince's Gym in Houston. The gym, at the time, was being used as a shelter for evacuees.
At a 2007 charity event in N.Y.C., the Black Mamba and a group of kids had fun bowling in Harlem.
The global icon gave tips and played a game of basketball with Changchun University of Technology students on July 27, 2010, in Changchun of Jilin Province, China.
Bryant and former Laker Brian Cook celebrated the NBA's Read to Achieve Week by making a surprise visit to Center Street Elementary School on Oct. 20, 2004, in El Segundo, California, to read to the students.