Kobe Bryant was mourned on Sunday in the small town of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, where he spent part of his childhood when his father, Joe Bryant, played basketball there.

“Kobe Bryant grew up here and was, for all of us, a ‘Reggiano,’” wrote the town’s mayor, Luca Vecchi, on Facebook. “Today he left us — a basketball legend that the whole town will remember forever with affection and respect.

“Ciao Kobe,” he added.

When Bryant was 6, his father Joe retired after a lengthy career in the NBA and moved his family to Italy, where he played for five seasons in the central region of Lazio, the southern region of Calabria, in Tuscany and finally for two seasons at Reggio Emilia, a small town in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna.

There, Kobe began his climb to greatness, playing on the youth team of Pallacanestro Reggiana — the team his father played for.

On Sunday the team published photos of Kobe Bryant with the simple message, “Always one of us.”

During a return visit to Reggio Emilia in 2016, where he gave fluent interviews in the Italian language he learned as a youth, Bryant told local newspaper Il Resto del Carlino, “My story started in this city,” adding, “Would you believe that one of the best players in the NBA could grow up here? There is nowhere further from Los Angeles.

“It means every dream is possible.” He added, “I have so many special memories. Here I could go around on a bicycle, go and eat an ice cream with my friends.”

Stefano Bonaccini, leader of the Emilia-Romagna region, wrote Sunday on Facebook, “Kobe Bryant has gone and we spare a thought for a great champion and a great person, who had a connection with our region just as our region had a connection to him.”

Source: LA Times