Father recalls son's joy when Kobe Bryant granted his dying wish

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (WHO) - Billy Thorington's reaction to Kobe Bryant's death Sunday was similar to many.

"I was floored. I heard it on the radio and I was like no way," Thorington said.

But that reaction had little to do with Bryant's Hall of Fame-worthy career and more about what Kobe did for Thorington's son, Cody, in 2007.

"It's not easy. Today is kind of an emotional day," said Thorington.

Growing up in Davenport, Cody Thorington loved cars, the U.S. Marine Corps, basketball, and Kobe Bryant. 

Thorington said, "It was all about Kobe. That's all he'd ever talk about."

Thorington said Cody had hoop dreams of his own.

"He wanted to play basketball. He was going to be another Kobe."

In 2005, Cody developed an incurable form of cancer.

"Rhabdomyosarcoma cancer.  He started out like any kid and I watched him go from a walker to a wheelchair," Thorington said.

Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Cody and his family reached out to Make-A-Wish Iowa with a request to meet Cody's idol Kobe Bryant.

"It was amazing. It was really amazing for Cody. They flew us down there and gave us a rental car everything," said Thorington.

In March of 2007, Thorington, Cody, and Cody's younger brother Travis all met Kobe Bryant and took in a game in Los Angeles, but Bryant's 23 points that night took a back seat to his generosity.

Thorington said, "Friendly, it was like he knew us. His wife was there and all the cheerleaders. Everybody was really friendly."

A superstar that made Cody forget about his battle against cancer.

"You look at those pictures right there, he's got a smile from ear to ear and hard to wipe off," said Thorington.

It provided the family with a feeling that had been hard to come by.

"He just, I don't know.  The adrenaline just came from him and went through us and we were all pumped up," said Thorington.

Unfortunately, the cancer never took a break and Cody died just eight months after his wish was granted, but the Thoringtons made sure Cody and Kobe were not far apart.

Thorington said, "Kobe gave him his jersey that he wore that night. Folded it up and put it in his casket, so it's with him."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, it doesn't take Thorington long to explain what Kobe Bryant meant to him or his son.

"I was really happy to see my kid being that happy. It was like one of his dreams come true. I hate to say it but I'm not that into basketball. I don't watch basketball but he's an amazing person. He really is. On and off the court," said Thorington.

The national Make-A-Wish organizations says Kobe Bryant granted similar wishes to over 200 kids like Cody during his NBA career.

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