For a short while Tuesday evening, Kobe Bryant drove far away from his Newport Coast mansion and completely abandoned his opulent lifestyle.
He arrived at skid row.
It's a place filled with garbage and littered with human waste — but among the despair, he found hope.
"You get to hear the stories, you get to see firsthand what's going on," Bryant said Wednesday at an event in Hollywood to promote his work with homeless people.
While walking around downtown L.A., Bryant met one man in particular who seemed to have a deep effect on the Lakers guard.
"He's a 60-year-old man, extremely articulate, had a great life, made a poor choice and ended up on the streets," Bryant said.
Bryant was quick to acknowledge that everyone has made poor choices in their life, including himself. He said that's no justification for people to turn their backs on those who have been reduced to what he called "white noise."
Bryant said that older gentleman had withered away to 135 pounds while living on the streets — but he eventually sought help at the L.A. Mission.
"Now he feels like he's there for good, and his weight is back up to 235," Bryant said. "He's 58, actually, but he's in better shape than I am."
Bryant's interest in helping the homeless began recently.
As he drove to and from Staples Center over the last few years, he no longer was completely consumed by the court.
He began noticing the streets.
Last year he started sponsoring a homeless resource center in Hollywood called My Friend's Place, which provides shelter, food, clothes, showers, transportation and other services to needy youth between the ages of 12 and 25 and their children. In 2011, the facility helped 1,741 people.
"I don't want to be too cheesy and quote 'Spider-Man,' but with great power comes great responsibility," he said.
Standing in front of a group of reporters, Bryant spoke fondly of his recent experience at skid row and the L.A. Mission.
He met many people that night. A few requested his assistance.
"I got a lot of people saying, 'Come help us out. I want to turn my life around,'" Bryan said. "My response was, 'Well, that's why I'm here.'"
—Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Melissa Rohlin wrote this story
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