Kobe spent Wednesday working on homelessness in L.A.

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Kobe Bryant is a guy not exactly known for sympathy on the basketball court. On the NBA.com Hang Time podcast this week Roy Hibbert talks about how Kobe broke his nose at a game in Los Angeles, and at the All Star Game Hibbert talked to him expecting some sympathy. Young, naïve Roy Hibbert.

But when it comes to homelessness, Kobe is sympathetic. He has a charity focused on it, but this is not just a tax write off for him — he was out on L.A.’s infamous Skid Row talking to homeless guys about how they ended up there. Hearing their stories.

He spoke with Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com about it in a fantastic article.

“I was trying to hear some of their stories and some of their backgrounds and how they got to this position,” Bryant said. “I wanted to know when that switch went off inside of them and they said, ‘I need help; I want to turn my life around.’ It gave me great perspective….

“This isn’t a popular topic or a popular issue,” Bryant said. “It’s one where you have to get your hands dirty a little bit. It’s not something celebrities easily rally around but this is something that we wanted to change. This something we’re all going to have to fight, it’s going to be a long fight but I’m in it for the long haul.”

Kobe and his wife Vanessa’s foundation helped renovate My Friend’s Place, a youth homeless shelter in Hollywood that helps about 1,700 people a year.

We tend to think of athletes in two dimensions and value them only for what they do on the field of play. And no doubt Kobe is still Kobe, he is who he is because he is type A personality, he is not forgiving on the court.

But maybe as he matures and his career winds down, he is finding what a lot of competitive people find — you have to define yourself by more than just your accomplishments on the court (or in business or whatever competition you choose). What kind of mark did you make, how did you help people, how did you make your community and world a little bit better? That is a true legacy.

Ultimately, that is what matters more than rings or any of the rest of it. Maybe that is starting to hit home with Kobe now in the way it rarely does with people when they are 22.