LA Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka paid a touching tribute to Kobe Bryant during the 41-year-old’s memorial in California on Monday and revealed the American’s ‘heroic’ final act was to help a young girl secure a baseball internship.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26th when the aircraft came down over Calabasas, California.
His death sent ripples through the sporting world but it was felt strongest in Los Angeles, where Bryant spent his entire career and won five NBA Championships.
It was on the west coast where Bryant struck up a close relationship with Pelinka and the now-Lakers General Manager worked his way up the franchise after starting as Kobe’s agent.
And, in a heartbreaking speech at the Staples Center, Pelinka revealed that Bryant messaged him to help the surviving daughter of John Altobelli, who was on board the helicopter at the time, to get a baseball internship.
‘I will start with Kobe the best friend,’ said an emotional Pelinka.
‘Do you remember where you were on that foggy sunless morning on January 26th when the axis of the world seemed to shift forever for all of us. I was in Sunday church with my family and my phone was deep in the pocket of my jeans when I felt the familiar text buzz. I ignored the notification because I was in church but for some reason with this text I felt a sudden urge to check my phone. I slipped it out of my jeans and discovered the text was from Kobe.
‘There was nothing uncharacteristic or unfamiliar about this. For the last two decades Kobe and I talked every day because that’s what best friends do. In that moment my instincts were to put the phone down and get back to the sermon but a gentle other worldly nudge compelled me to open the text so I did. I quickly saw that Kobe was asking me if I knew a certain baseball agent based in Southern California.
‘Since Kobe’s question didn’t have any urgency to it I decided to wait until after Church to respond but then again there was a gentle nudge. I grabbed my phone and text Kobe back that I’d seen the agent at a Lakers game just the other night and was happy to help him with whatever he wanted. It was now just past 9:30. He text back explaining his desire to help a friend of his secure a baseball agency internship for one of his young daughters.
‘Kobe’s last human act was heroic. He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl’s future. Hasn’t Kobe done that for all of us?’
Bryant’s memorial included tributes from his wife Vanessa, Michael Jordan, Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Jimmy Kimmell.
Thousands of fans packed out the Staples Center, with revenue from ticket sales being donated to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.
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