Kobe Bryant, and his daughter, Gianna, were among nine people who died last week when Kobe's personal helicopter crashed on its way to Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for basketball practice. Tributes have been flooding in from around the world following the accident, and many of them include stories about how Kobe Bryant had impacted fans.
Kristen O'Connor Hecht recently took to Facebook to share one such touching story. When Kristen worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, a cardiologist asked if she could acquire a signed Lakers basketball for a young terminally ill fan named after Kobe. Her husband, former Phoenix Suns director of corporate partnerships, Tom Hecht, set about trying to arrange the gift.
"I called Tom at the Phoenix Suns making the request, believing that there would be virtually no way this would happen," Kristen explained in the Facebook post. "The Lakers were coming to play the Suns later in the week."
"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. Tom said, 'No, he read your story and he wants to come and meet the little boy.' I was floored!"
Yes, the child's namesake had heard about the request and decided that a signed basketball simply wouldn't be enough. Kristen continued:
"So the next day, with the support of the Colangelo family, a limousine brought Kobe Bryant to my office. Under a cloak of secrecy - neither security or PR people were informed (I got in a little trouble for that but it was so worth it!) the three of us scrambled up a back staircase to this little boy’s room in cardiac ICU."
Kobe Bryant spent the "better part of an hour" with the child, talking, and passing a basketball back and forth.
"Several autographed items were left and many photos were taken," Kristen explained. "The machines keeping him alive were dinging, whirring and alarming and his doc was just grinning from ear to ear, as Tom and I stood nervously watching this unbelievable scene unfold before us."
And when Kristen was walking Kobe back to his car, he went even further.
"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. (The little boy had a heart defect and was too ill for a transplant.) I was floored. I was floored not only by his sincerity and offer of generosity, but the kindness and warmth he displayed."
Kristen explained that the boy passed away just a week after the visit, but his mother got in touch to explain how much it had meant to him.
"Little Kobe passed away the following week," she wrote. "About three weeks later I got a letter from Little Kobe’s mom describing the power in those moments. She said those were the most joyful moments of his entire life. The photos were the only photos she had of him smiling."
Kristen went on to add: "According to Kobe Bryant’s PR people he did this everywhere but the deal was - no PR. 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...'. May God shine eternal light upon your soul, Kobe."
Unsurprisingly, people loved the heartwarming story, with one commenter writing: "Man I had just started getting control of my sweaty eyeballs."
While another added: "That's why I love Kobe and up to now, everytime I read stories from other people, tears roll down my eyes."