Kobe Bryant and Daughter Gianna, 13, Went to Church Together Hours Before Fatal Helicopter Crash
The former professional basketball player, who was raised Catholic, and his 13-year-old daughter attended a 7 a.m. mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of the Angels in Newport Beach, PEOPLE confirms.
Father Steve Sallot of the Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of the Angels told local news outlet ABC7 that Bryant was in attendance on Sunday morning. “He was here before the 7 a.m mass and that’s our first mass of the day. He would’ve obviously been in prayer chapel before that and he was leaving 10 [minutes] after 7,” Sallot said.
A spokesperson for the Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of the Angels did not comment to PEOPLE, out of respect to the Bryant family.
A Boston priest was among the first to tweet about Kobe and Gianna’s sighting on Sunday. “A friend texted me today to tell me that a friend of her’s saw #KobeBryant at #Catholic Mass this morning. Mass is the worship of God. Heaven is the worship of God. Go to Mass here so that you can worship God forever in heaven,” David Barnes said on Twitter.
Bryant, who called being a father his “greatest achievement,” shared a passion for basketball with his daughter Gianna, who was nicknamed Gigi.
In a 2018 video that resurfaced after their deaths, the former Los Angeles Laker proudly recalled that his daughter planned to follow in his footsteps and keep the Bryant basketball legacy alive.
“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans come up to me, and she’ll be standing next to me, and they’ll be like, ‘You gotta have a boy, you and [wife Vanessa] gotta have a boy, somebody else to carry on the tradition, the legacy,’ ” he told late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.
“She’s like, ‘Oh, I got this. You don’t need a boy for that. I got this,’ ” he said. “I’m like, ‘That’s right, yes you do. You got this,’ ” he added.
Gianna was even starting to emulate her father’s style on the court.
“His focus on kids’ books and reaching out to kids about basketball was definitely because of his daughters and more specifically Gigi [Gianna],” a former business associate of Bryant’s told PEOPLE.
“Having kids to get to play the sport was huge for him,” the source added. “She was actually playing just like him. I just saw video of her playing a couple weeks ago, and she literally did the same exact fade away. Everyone was like ‘That’s Kobe’s girl.’
His daughter’s love of the game also got Bryant to start watching basketball games again.
“Before Gigi got into basketball I hardly watched it, but now that’s she’s into basketball, we watch every night,” Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016, told former players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the Showtime Basketball podcast All the Smoke earlier this month.
“We just had so much fun because it was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes,” the father of four said of the experience.
“It wasn’t me sitting there, you know, as an athlete or a player or something like that, and you know it’s like about me, and I don’t like that,” he added. “It was her, she was having such a good time.”