POWAY, Calif. – Kobe Bryant ranks fourth in the career all-time scoring list and lifted five championship trophies, but he also lifted a San Diego family when they needed it most.
“It was a tough time in my life with my mother being sick,” Austin Torres said from his real estate office in Poway.
A quick glance around his office and you’ll see Kobe Bryant jerseys hanging from the wall, Kobe figurines on his desk and you might even see the pair of baby Kobe shoes he bought for his baby eight years before he was even born. None of that compares to the surprise he got last October when Bryant made a surprise visit to San Diego.
“It was just so mind-blowing to see him just feet from me and this is someone I’ve always admired," Torres said. "It was just a cool experience.”
Torres says his 13-year-old niece played a scrimmage against Bryant's thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna in Orange County. Somehow, the coaches became friends and Bryant agreed to fly down to San Diego in his helicopter to coach the girls for a day. The team got a heads-up the day before the visit.
“I was adamant,” Torres said. “I told my niece I have to be there. If I’m your dad, I’m your dad. Whatever I need to do to be in the practice.”
After three hours of teaching, Bryant stuck around for an hour to sign autographs, and Torres stuck around too, hoping to get the chance to say 'thank you' for something Bryant did off the court in 2015.
“His documentary 'Muse' had just come out on HBO and it talks about his recovery, his life," Torres said.
Torres’ mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about five years ago, shortly after the movie came out. The film detailed Bryant's struggles and how he was determined to overcome them.
“I remember just watching this documentary and just holding my mom’s hand and getting the strength to try and battle,” Torres said. “She really took it to heart and battled the next year until she passed away, but I’d like to think that seeing it helped her though that time.”