The late NBA legend Kobe Bryant was known for granting numerous Make-A-Wish requests during his 20-year long basketball career.
Upon the news of his death in a helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven of their friends, the whole world – basketball fan or not – mourned his untimely demise.
Proving that Bryant was more than just an NBA star, Facebook user Kristen O’Connor Hecht shared a heartwarming tribute to the court star on Monday, a day after his death. She remembered the time when Bryant visited a terminally ill young boy in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
Kristen is the wife of Tom Hecht, the former Phoenix Suns director of corporate partnerships. At the time, she said she was working at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center when a cardiologist approached her with a request.
The doctor asked her if Tom could ask the Lakers legend to sign a basketball for his dying patient, a five-year-old boy with a heart defect who was also named Kobe.
“I called Tom at the Phoenix Suns making the request, believing that there would be virtually no way this would happen,” Hecht wrote in her Facebook post. “A day later Tom called me and said, ‘He’ll do it!’ I was thrilled and thought I’d bring the ball or whatever it was to work.”
But Bryant had other plans – instead of just signing the ball, he would be visiting the boy!
The next day, he was secretly driven to the hospital where Hecht guided him to the boy’s room. When he got there, the two Kobes instantly bonded.
“For the better part of an hour they played basketball, passing it back and forth, with little Kobe, laughing, his sweet Mama smiling and laughing,” Hecht recalled. “Several autographed items were left and many photos were taken.”
His doctor couldn’t help but grin from “ear to ear” as his little patient played with his idol.
When the time came for Bryant to leave, he asked Hecht if there was any way that he could help with the boy’s treatment.
“As we got back in the limo, Kobe turned to me and said, ‘Kristen, what can I do to help? Is it a financial thing? Because I can take care of that.’ It wasn’t.” She informed him that the boy was too ill to receive a heart transplant.
“I was floored. I was floored not only by his sincerity and offer of generosity but the kindness and warmth he displayed,” she said of the five-time NBA champion.
Sadly, the boy passed away a week later. Three weeks later, Kobe’s mom sent Hecht a letter, thanking her for the visit and describing the impact it had on her son.
“She said those were the most joyful moments of his entire life,” Hecht said. “The photos were the only photos she had of him smiling.”
Hecht also revealed that these kinds of visits weren’t new to Bryant as he regularly visited sick children, with the deal being that it should always be kept from the public.
“From that day on he has been my hero and when people would tell me they didn’t like him, I would say, ‘Let me tell you a story…’” Hecht concluded her post. “May God shine eternal light upon your soul, Kobe.”
Almost a week had passed since this tragic accident occurred and most of us are still in shock. All we can ask for during this difficult time is healing and comfort to those who are deeply affected by this loss, most especially Bryant’s immediate family.