Kobe Bryant played basketball with the young fan, and took pictures and autographed several items.
Apart from granting hundreds of Make-A-Wish requests during his two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers, the former NBA MVP made it a point to visit children coping with illnesses quietly. This generosity of Kobe Bryant, who tragically lost his life along with eight others in a fatal helicopter crash was brought to light in an appreciative Facebook post that has now gone viral. Kristen O’Connor Hecht, the wife of former Phoenix Suns director of corporate partnerships Tom Hecht, wrote about an incident when the 41-year-old paid a visit to the ICU of an Arizona hospital to meet a terminally-ill boy, reports People.
Hecht was working at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center when a pediatric cardiologist came to her with a heartbreaking request. The Lakers were in town to play a match that week and the doctor wanted to know if she could arrange for an autograph signed by Bryant for a dying 5-year-old boy who happened to share the first name of the late athlete. Explaining the impossibility of fulfilling this wish, she wrote: I called Tom at the Phoenix Suns making the request, believing that there would be virtually no way this would happen.
However, Hecht was surprised when Tom called her and said that Bryant was willing to do more than just autographing a ball. 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! continued the post. The following day, Bryant was secretly brought to the hospital and was quickly snuck up to the patient's room in the ICU by Hecht.
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. Several autographed items were left and many photos were taken. 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, recollected Hecht. Of course, little Kobe was over the moon following this visit, however, Hecht was soon to find out that the experience had touched the basketball legend deeply, too.
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 wrote adding that the boy was too sick to survive 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 continued. Unfortunately, little Kobe passed away the following week but the moments he spent with the five-time NBA champion was definitely one of the happiest moments in his life. 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, she added.
Hecht further disclosed that Bryant had visited many such patients during his lifetime but during each of them, he requested that there be no publicity. Concluding the post, she shared: 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.