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JT on Kobe: 'He’s a guy I always looked up to'

Dodgers star hosts charity event with heavy heart in wake of LA giant's passing
@kengurnick
January 27, 2020

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- In the wake of Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said he considered canceling his 5th annual charity golf tournament set for Monday. But after seeing how attendees of

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- In the wake of Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said he considered canceling his 5th annual charity golf tournament set for Monday.

But after seeing how attendees of Sunday’s kickoff dinner used that gathering to share stories of how Bryant touched their lives, Turner decided the outing at Sherwood Country Club would serve a dual purpose: Allow his friends and supporters the opportunity to mourn together while fulfilling the original intent of raising money to help the underserved in Southern California.

“The good part of [the kickoff dinner] was, everybody was sharing their stories of how Kobe impacted their lives or touched their lives,” Turner said. “Everybody has a unique image of Kobe and what he did for them when they were growing up. For my generation, Kobe was, is, cream of the crop. I think the hard part, growing up, he grew up in the living room with you, watching him play for so many years.”

Turner showed again on Monday why he is, in so many ways, the perfect Dodger. He’s a native Southern Californian. He’s a force in the Dodgers lineup, a leader in the clubhouse and a presence in the community.

He’s spent most of January helping others -- not just Monday’s event at the spectacular Sherwood Country Club. The respect he has earned from peers was reflected in Monday’s tournament lineup: Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Joe Kelly, Ross Stripling, Austin Barnes, Chris Taylor, Mike Moustakas, Chase Utley, Orel Hershiser, Nomar Garciaparra, David Wright, Jimmy Rollins, Eric Karros and Ike Davis.

Turner and his wife, Kourtney, launched the Justin Turner Foundation to support homeless veterans, children battling life-altering illnesses and diseases (and their families) and various youth baseball organizations. Monday’s event will result in a $50,000 donation to the Los Angeles Dream Center, which houses homeless veterans.

Turner said Bryant’s community work set the bar high for all athletes to use their visibility to help others.

“I think you don’t find a superstar of his caliber to remain that influential in the community, for the game of basketball and especially for women’s basketball,” Turner said. “What he was doing, with his daughters, he’s a guy I always looked up to. As much as he’s done on the court, the things he was getting involved in. I spent some time at his sports academy right before it became the Mamba Academy.

“Other than trying to impact people’s lives, one of the important things we try to do is help guys realize their platform and the capabilities they have to be able to get out in the community and get involved and impact someone’s life. It’s good to have them out here and seeing that and hopefully open some eyes and make them want to start one of their own.”

Baseball world mourns loss of Kobe Bryant

Kershaw is another Dodger whose foundation (Kershaw’s Challenge) has utilized the Dodgers’ fame to make the world a better place. He flew in for the tournament, in part because Turner travels to Texas to support Kershaw’s fundraiser.

Like Turner, Kershaw acknowledged the difficulty in processing Sunday’s tragedy.

“I got to meet Kobe a few times and what everybody said about him, as far as his presence, just what he meant to this city, being here now playing sports for 12 years, everybody talks about Kobe, that’s just the guy,” Kershaw said.

“You feel impacted even if you didn’t know him. Everybody watched him play basketball. His wife and daughters, just feel terrible for them. Just hope they can find some comfort in the legacy he left. Just the millions of people he impacted. You can’t even fathom something like that, to lose a spouse and kid the same day. Nobody should have to go through that. Just hope they can find the strength somewhere.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.