Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna attended a 7 a.m. mass before their fatal helicopter crash, PEOPLE confirms

By Maria Pasquini Johnny Dodd
January 27, 2020 07:00 PM

Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna spent some of their final moments together in church.

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, 41, and his daughter were on their way to a youth basketball game with seven others, including the helicopter pilot, at the time of the crash, according to ESPN.

Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna
Allen Berezovsky/Getty

RELATED: An NBA Legend, Loving Parents, 3 Teens & a Pilot: All 9 Victims of the Calabasas Helicopter Crash

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.

Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna
Allen Berezovsky/Getty

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.’

RELATED: Kobe Bryant Filed Trademark for Daughter Gianna’s Nickname ‘Mambacita’ a Month Before Their Deaths

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.

The pair even attended several Lakers games before the start of the new year, which was the first he had attended since his jersey retirement ceremony in 2017.

Kobe Bryant and family at his jersey retirement ceremony
Allen Berezovsky/Getty

“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.”

Advertisement