CALABASAS, Calif. (CNS) – As the world mourned the loss of basketball great Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others killed in a tragic helicopter crash Jan. 26, many recalled how Bryant gave much credit to his Catholic faith for seeing him through the bad times and strengthening his marriage and family.

A shooting guard, Bryant was drafted into the NBA at age 17 and played his entire 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He entered the NBA directly from high school and won five NBA championships. He retired at the end of the 2015-2016 season.

News of Bryant’s death quickly prompted tributes on social media. On Twitter, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said “he was sad to hear the news” and offered prayers for him and his family.

In Rome for his region’s “ad limina” visit with Pope Francis, Archbishop Gomez told Catholic News Service Jan. 27 that Bryant “was a very good Catholic, a faithful Catholic.”

Born in Philadelphia Aug. 23, 1978, Bryant was raised a Catholic and as a youth lived for a while in Italy. He and his wife, Vanessa, married at St. Edward Catholic Church in Dana Point, California, and raised their children Catholic. Bryant is survived by his wife and three other daughters. Gianna, also known as “GiGi,” was the couple’s second oldest daughter.

One of the darkest periods in his personal life happened in 2003 – when he was accused of raping a young woman while he was staying at a mountain resort hotel in Colorado; he was in the state for knee surgery and was staying near Vail in Eagle, Colorado. He was arrested on a rape charge.

He denied he had raped her but admitted that the two had consensual sex. The charges were eventually dropped. In 2004, his accuser filed a civil suit against him and in 2005 Bryant settled with her out of court for an undisclosed sum.

His marriage almost ended over it. In a GQ interview in 2015, he said he relied on his Catholic faith to get him through  and talking to a priest was “the turning point.”

“The one thing that really helped me during that process – I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic,  my kids are Catholic – was talking to a priest. It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ‘Did you do it?’ And I say, ‘Of course not.’ Then he asks, ‘Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ‘Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”