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," Billy said. But that reaction had little to do with Bryant's hall of fame worthy career and more about what Kobe did for Billy's son Cody in 2007.
"It's not easy. Today is kind of an emotional day," said Billy.
Growing up in Davenport, Cody Thorington loved cars, the U.S. Marine Corps, basketball and Kobe Bryant.
Billy said, "It was all about Kobe. That's all he'd ever talk about." Billy said Cory had hoop dreams of his own. "He wanted to play basketball. He was going to be another Kobe." Then in 2005 at age 13 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," Billy said.
Diagnosed with a terminal illness Cody and his family reached out to Make-A-Wish Iowa. 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 Billy.
In March of 2007 Billy, 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. Billy 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 Billy. 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 Billy.
Unfortunately the cancer never took a break and Cody died just eight months after his wish was granted, but the Thorington's made sure Cody and Kobe were not far apart. Billy 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 Billy 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 Billy.
The national Make-A-Wish organizations says Kobe Bryant granted similar wishes to over 200 kids like Cody during is NBA career.