One of the last things Kobe Bryant did before the Jan. 26 crash that killed him and eight other people was to ask for help for a girl who was soon to be orphaned when the chopper went down on a California hillside.
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who was formerly Bryant’s agent, shared the tale Monday during a memorial service for Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who died in the crash with her father.
Bryant was seeking to help Alexis Altobelli, 16, whose father, mother and sister were killed in the crash.
“Do you remember where you were on that foggy, sunless morning of Jan. 26 when the axis of the world seemed to shift forever, for all of us?” Pelinka said in his remarks.
The GM said he was in church at the time, and — ignoring his usual custom while worshipping — checked his phone when it buzzed.
“The text was from Kobe. There was nothing uncharacteristic or unfamiliar about this. For the last two decades, Kobe and I talked or texted every single day. Because that’s what best friends do,” he said.
“In that moment my instincts were to put the phone down and get back to the preacher’s sermon, but a gentle, otherworldly nudge compelled me to open the text, so I did. I quickly saw that Kobe was asking me if I happened to know a certain baseball agent based in Southern California. Since Kobe’s question didn’t have any urgency to it, I decided I’d wait until after church to respond, but then again there was a gentle nudge,” Pelinka said.
“I grabbed my phone and texted Kobe back that I’d seen the baseball agent at a Lakers game just the other night and was happy to help him with whatever he wanted,” he said.
At the time, Bryant had 15 minutes left to live.
“Kobe texted back, explaining his desire to help a friend of his secure a baseball agency internship for one of his young daughters,” Pelinka said. “Kobe vouched for the girl’s character, intellect and work ethic. He clearly wanted to champion a bright future for her. I texted Kobe right back and said I would put a plan in motion to help him get that done.”
There would be no more texts.
“A handful of minutes later, Kobe and Gianna and seven other beautiful souls ascended into heaven. Kobe had been texting me from the helicopter. The girl in that text chain that he was wanting to help so badly was Lexi Altobelli, the surviving daughter of coach John Altobelli, who was also on the helicopter,” he said.
“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? Kobe was literally the best friend anyone could ask for,” Pelinka said.
The wrongful death suit claims that pilot Ara Zobayan, who was killed in the crash, was negligent and failed to scrap the flight when he knew conditions were unsafe.
The National Transportation Safety Board has so far ruled out mechanical failure as a cause of the crash, but has otherwise not issued any ruling on the accident.
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