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Kobe Bryant visits with Los Angeles homeless in new web miniseries (VIDEO)

Pretty much every elite professional athlete in the world supports a charitable cause, whether by setting up a personal foundation or joining forces with a preexisting group. Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, via the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, has set his sights considerably broader: "improving the lives of youth and families in need, both domestically and globally."

What that means, in practice, is that Bryant can focus on the issues that matter to him at any particular time instead of devoting all his power to one cause. So, for his latest charitable endeavor, Kobe went down to Los Angeles' Skid Row — site of one of the largest groups of homeless Americans — to meet with a segment of the population that rarely gets any attention from media or politicians.

He was joined by a camera crew from TakePart TV, a YouTube channel that produces web series with a sociological bent. The resulting five-part miniseries, "Mission: Kobe Bryant," hit the Internet earlier this week. You can watch the trailer above and learn more after the jump. From the press release:

Mission follows Bryant as he documents an honest and unfiltered account of challenges facing residents of Skid Row, the downtown Los Angeles area with the largest concentration of homeless people in the United States. Through Bryant's personal and candid conversations with residents of The Los Angeles Mission, a nonprofit organization that cares for homeless people in the area, Mission highlights key social issues affecting millions of homeless Americans and how organizations are helping people regain their lives.

While the first segment of the series is devoted to Bryant's impressions of Skid Row, the real substance comes from his conversations with the four residents of the Los Angeles Mission: Anthony, Dennis, Kenneth, and Reggie. These are candid discussions of what these men have experienced, how they're trying to improve their lives, and the many challenges they face every day. What comes across most is their essential humanity in the face of intense struggle. No matter their troubles, these people are still worth knowing.

It's important to temper our praise for what Bryant is doing here — it's not as if he spends his off-hours volunteering at the mission or is single-handedly taking people off the streets. But appearing in this series is still very meaningful, because it ensures that more people will see this series than if he'd merely lent his name to the project or provided narration. Basketball fans follow the events of Kobe Bryant's life. By interacting with the homeless himself, Kobe knew that he'd reveal the experiences of the homeless to an audience that may not have encountered them otherwise.

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