HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We spend an inordinate amount of time during this part of the offseason detailing things like what sort of workouts a player is going through and where they’re vacationing.
What doesn’t garner as many headlines is the work they do off the court: conducting free camps for kids, donating their time and money to charitable causes and getting outside of their comfort zone every now and then to use their stature as some of the world’s most recognizable face to a worthy cause.
And as Lakers star Kobe Bryant highlighted earlier this week while walking the downtown streets of Los Angeles with his wife, Vanessa, wading into the midst of that city’s homeless community. Sometimes, as ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi makes clear, it takes the bright light that only certain celebrities bring to draw attention to a particular cause:
While Bryant was there he met a 58-year-old man, who has been in and out of the mission for the past year.
“He was extremely articulate and he had a great life and he made a poor choice and ended up on the streets,” Bryant said. “He came to the L.A. Mission weighing 135 pounds and now he’s healthy and his weight is back up. He’s 58 but he’s in better shape than I am. … You get to hear their stories and you get to find out first-hand what’s going on.
“This issue gets pushed into the backburner because it’s easy to put the blame on those that are homeless and say you made that bad decision and that’s the reason why you are where you are and it’s your fault. We all make mistakes and to just sit back and watch this and to wash your hands of it by saying that’s your fault, that’s not right and it’s not fair.”
On Wednesday Kobe and Vanessa Bryant arrived at My Friend’s Place, a drop-in center for homeless youth in Hollywood, which annually serves about 1,700 individuals between the ages of 12 and 25. They were there to announce the completion of the center’s renovation, which was funded by the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.
“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.”