Kobe Bryant Speaks at Trayvon Martin Rally

NBA superstar stands by family of slain teenager.

Posted: 07/22/2014 07:52 AM EDT

Kobe Bryant will be attempting to come back from injury and prove, at 36, that he still has something left in the tank for the 2014-15 NBA season.

Sure, that's a sampling of adversity that professional athletes must go through, but they pale in comparison to what the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin has had to endure over the past two years. Bryant reportedly met with Martin's parents before making a surprise appearance and speech at a rally in Crenshaw against gun violence and racial profiling.

“When you look at Sybrina and Tracy, what they had to go through as a family and what they’ve come out of — that is true adversity,” Bryant told a crowd of about 200 people over the weekend. “Our responsibility is more than putting a ball in a basket, but giving them the platform to voice these inspirations.”

In a sense, Bryant’s brief speech and presence at the rally had to be personally redeeming moments, considering his controversial wait-and-see approach after Martin was killed in 2012.

"I won't react to something just because I'm supposed to, because I'm an African-American," Bryant told the New Yorker, as reported by ESPN "That argument doesn't make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we've progressed as a society? Well, we've progressed as a society, then don't jump to somebody's defense just because they're African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won't assert myself."

Just because Bryant didn’t assert himself immediately doesn’t mean other NBA players followed suit. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat all donned hoodies as a response and tribute to Martin’s murder.

Martin, 17, was killed in Sanford, Florida, on his way back home from a convenience store on February 26, 2012, the same day of the NBA All-Star game. Martin, unarmed and carrying iced tea, was approached by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed, neighborhood crime-watch volunteer, when an alleged scuffled ensued with Zimmerman claiming to have shot Martin acting in self-defense. Last year, Zimmerman was controversially acquitted of murder.

Saturday’s rally in Crenshaw fought against gun violence and racial profiling — two central points in the Martin case.

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(Photo: Nipsey Hussle via Instagram)

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