Kobe Bryant will go down in history as one of the greatest basketball players of the 21st century.
His 20-year career at the Los Angeles Lakers saw five NBA championships; the 2008 MVP award; a two-time NBA finals MVP; and Bryant was the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history.
Off the court, Bryant, who was killed Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, was equally exceptional. From mentoring young boys and girls to donating money to help support high school basketball teams, Bryant made a difference in the lives of thousands of people globally.
Here are nine times the “Black Mamba” made a difference outside the court.
National Ambassador For After-School All-Stars
Bryant was big on helping young people achieve their goals and become leaders.
In 2007, he became a national ambassador for After-School All-stars, a nonprofit organization that partners with schools to offer after-school programming for students from low-income families.
Through the organization, Bryant gave motivational speeches to young students throughout the U.S. He also raised money for the organization’s Los Angeles chapter, which serves 14,000 students from 38 schools.
Raising Awareness, Money For Darfur
In 2008, Bryant was voted NBA’s most valuable player. The same year, he signed on as the spokesperson for Aid Still Required.
He used his status as MVP to create a PSA where he raised awareness on the atrocities of the Darfur conflict. Bryant made an emotional appeal asking people to come together and take a stand against the war.
Advocate For Children Fighting Terminal Illness
Throughout his 20-year career, Bryant brought countless smiles to kids suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
Through Make-a-wish-America, a nonprofit organization that creates life-changing wishes for youth with critical sickness, Bryant visited over 200 kids battling life-threatening illnesses.
He would also invite some of the kids to his games to provide a form of escape and inspire them.
The Kobe And Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation
Together with his wife Vanessa, the basketball legend established the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation in 2011
The same year, the foundation partnered with homeless youth drop-in center My Friends Place to increase awareness about the homeless problem and help homeless youth build self-sufficient lives.
The KVBFF also operates the Mamba FC, which is a youth soccer club in Orange County that uses sports to provide training for young athletes to become independent thinkers and leaders.
Bryant also used the KVBFF to help increase awareness of black history. He was among the milestone founders of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Raising Money for Cancer Awareness
Throughout his career, Bryant worked with different organizations to raise money for cancer research and treatment.
In 2012, he was part of the Stand Up to Cancer telecast, which raised over $81 million for cancer research. Bryant also sent motivational messages to patients battling cancer.
Cultural Ambassador To China
After the 2008 Olympics, China fell in love with Bryant. In 2009, he was named the cultural ambassador to China and later contributed 5 million yuan to promote sports in China.
He also partnered with retail giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd - ADR (NYSE: BABA) to help promote basketball in China. Through the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, he provided hundred of America youths a chance to learn Mandarin and the Chinese culture and traditions.
Helping Others Succeed
After his retirement from the NBA, Bryant became a venture capitalist and helped several companies get off the ground.
Through his VC firm Bryant Stibel, Kobe invested in over a dozen tech, data and media startups.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bryant said he enjoyed helping others succeed. “The most important thing I enjoy now is helping others be successful. I enjoy doing that much more; that's something that lasts forever."
A Literacy Advocate
Bryant was an advocate for academic achievement. He made several donations to literacy programs with his most recent being in June 2019, where he donated copies of his book "The Wizenard Series" to LeBron James’ I Promise School.
He often asked his fans to donate books to help promote reading among low-income children.
Supporting Women In Sports
Bryant was a big supporter of women in sports. In December 2019, Bryant and his wife Vanessa donated $5,000 to help support the Roseville Basketball team.
This was after a student requested him to help them get prepared for the season.
Bryant had earlier partnered with Nike and the LA Boys and Girls club to create a youth basketball league called The Mamba League.
He later formed the Mamba Academy to provide kids with access to sports. He used the academy to offer athletic and lifestyle training to young athletes. The academy was also used as the training ground for his daughter’s basketball team.
He was headed to the Mamba Academy when his helicopter crashed.
Bryant was also an avid supporter of the U.S. national women's soccer team.
Public domain photo via Wikimedia.