"He signed all my pictures, took any pictures I wanted, answered all my questions," one young Make-A-Wish recipient remembered

By Jason Duaine Hahn
January 29, 2020 04:29 PM
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Kobe Bryant was just as prolific at granting Make-A-Wish requests as he was on the court.

The late NBA legend is credited with granting more than 200 requests for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in his two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant, who was one of the most recognizable basketball players in history, said that spending time with young people facing life’s most difficult challenges was what was truly meaningful to him.

“Basketball is something that will come and eventually go, the beauty in that is trying to use that time to inspire others and provide some sort of escape for them,” Bryant explained in a video interview with Time Warner Sportsnet in 2016. “I think that’s something that lives well beyond the game of basketball and is probably most important.”

The five-time champion and former NBA MVP died on Sunday in an L.A.-area helicopter crash that claimed the lives of his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others. He was 41; she was 13.

“Make-A-Wish is devastated to learn of wish granter Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna’s tragic death,” the foundation said in a statement to PEOPLE. “Kobe granted more than 200 wishes, giving each child hope for a brighter future. Our heartfelt condolences to the Bryant family and all the families who lost a loved one.”

Following Bryant’s passing, many Make-A-Wish recipients shared their stories about meeting the Lakers superstar.

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Kobe Bryant (right) with Jordan Patterson
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.”

In a viral Facebook post, dad Patrick Moore gratefully recalled the time his son, Henry, was able to meet Bryant through Make-A-Wish.

“We didn’t bring anything for Kobe to sign and didn’t want to impose on him in any way,” Moore shared on Sunday after the news of Bryant’s death. “We were grateful for Henry just to be able to see Kobe play a game in person. We expected he would take a quick photo and be done.”

Kobe Bryant (right) with Make-A-Wish recipients
Make-A-Wish Foundation

“Kobe asked why we didn’t bring anything to sign and he sent an assistant to the Laker’s store in the Staples Center,” Moore wrote. “The assistant brought back a TON of stuff and Kobe signed it all. He held Henry through much of our visit. The memorabilia is still all over Henry’s bedroom.”

“I hope he knew how much joy his visit brought to Henry,” Moore added. “He was Henry’s hero before the Wish. He was Angela’s and mine after that Wish. Godspeed Kobe.”

Bryant also did charitable work outside of Make-A-Wish, including with the Boys & Girls Club of America, After-School All-Stars and Stand Up To Cancer. He also helped youth and families in need through his own organization, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.

“If you just work at your craft, anything is possible,” Jordan Patterson told WITI of the life lessons from Bryant he’ll hold close to his heart. “Anyone can be great, and that just sticks with me every day.”