Black History Month Spotlight: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant: The Ultimate Girl Dad
Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri. These four girls meant more to sports legend Kobe Bryant than any basketball championship he ever earned. His daughters with his wife Vanessa, were the center of his world before his life was cut tragically short in a helicopter crash that also took the life of daughter Gianna and seven other people.
Legendary Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant lived a life of incredible discipline and focus.
To become one of the world’s best athletes –and all that comes with that title — Kobe remained transparent about his own anxiety and mental health. He was incredibly involved in campaigns, like ‘Why We Rise,’ a Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health campaign to stamp out the stigma around depression and anxiety. He also encouraged young people to be active while promoting the need for access to sports facility for youth.
But, arguably, this incredibly gifted athlete’s greatest achievement will be as a loving father to his four daughters.
Being A Dad Was The Most Important Job Of Kobe’s Life.
Though the life of a superstar professional basketball player can be exceptionally busy, Kobe made plenty of time for his daughters. “I want to make sure the days that I’m away from them are days that I absolutely have to be,” Bryant told the Los Angeles Times. “I’d rather be with them than doing anything else.” In a sad twist of irony, Kobe began traveling by helicopter so that he could spend more time with his daughters after missing a school play when he was sitting in traffic, Bryant said during a 2018 interview.
“Kobe was the MVP of girl dads––or MVD,” Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, said in her eulogy for her husband. “He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough.”
Everyday Dads Win Every Day
Not every man can have Kobe’s jump shot, but every man has the opportunity to make a positive impact on his family and his community, like Kobe did. At Children’s Home and Aid, our team and our committed partners walk alongside fathers. For the past five years, we have been working with men of color in Chicago’s Englewood and North Lawndale neighborhoods. The program made transformational change in the lives of many of our participants, so the Thriving Fathers & Families program expanded to both the Central and Northern regions of the state to help even more dads focus on strengthening their relationships with their children, families, and communities. Services include job preparation and placement, educational tools, referrals to legal assistance, parenting and co-parenting classes, and family-building activities, offering opportunities for dads throughout Illinois to connect and learn alongside each other.
Ed Davies, Director of Community Initiatives at Children’s Home & Aid, says that peer support and camaraderie are key components of the program and has seen countless dads empower each other over the years through this work. “When fathers have a safe space to form healthy and supportive relationships amongst themselves, they are able to challenge each other to grow and be better parents.”
Empowered Dads Power Families
While Kobe and other key influencers coined the #GirlDad phrase, the “father effect” is well-documented, with the science showing that a father’s behaviors and presence both before, during, and after pregnancy has a great impact on a child’s development. For example, we know that kids who grow up with a present, engaged dad are less likely to drop out of school or wind up in jail, compared to children with absent fathers and no other male caretakers or role models. And when children have close relationships with their dads or a father figure, they tend to avoid high-risk behaviors, endure fewer mental health issues throughout their lives, and are more likely to have high-paying jobs and healthy, stable relationships when they grow up. An emerging body of research from the Institute for Family Studies has also demonstrated an intriguing link between the way daughters deal with stress as adults and the kind of relationships they had with their dads during childhood.
At Children’s Home and Aid, we’re listening to what fathers say they need to tap into their potential and build a foundation for success. A big part of this partnership is providing space for fathers to connect with other fathers, share their experiences, and troubleshoot challenges that arise as they work to strengthen their families and heal their communities.
Showing Up Beyond the Home Court
Kobe influenced children beyond his own, including writing a series of children’s books like “Legacy and the Queen and “Legacy and the Double.” Kobe said he wrote the books to inspire children (including his own!) to work hard and believe in themselves.
“I have four girls at home and I wanted to make sure, it’s important that they see characters that look like them. They are also athletes. They get tired of hearing my voice, ‘Be persistent. Work hard. Believe in yourself.’ They’re kind of like, okay, Dad, alright, I got it, we get it.’ So when I can put them into stories like this, hopefully it will get that same message without having their parents in their ear all the time,” Kobe said.
Kobe is a role model for many men in more ways than one. In addition to his tough defense, vertical leap, and ability to score winning baskets at the end of a game, Kobe was also clutch when it came to his family. We honor Kobe’s legacy this Black History Month as a #GirlDad and a father, and as someone who cared about the health and wellness of his family and community.
How You Can Help Support the Dads in Your Life
There are numerous ways you can support the #GirlDad or #BoyDad in your own life, whether it be letting him take on more responsibilities with the kids or just being a listening ear for support each day. You can also support our Thriving Fathers & Families program with a financial gift to help invest in a bright future for children and fathers throughout Illinois. Donate today!