Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey was hoisted to the rafters of the arena in Italy where his father, Joe, played after he retired from the NBA and moved his family to Europe in the 1980s.
The central Italian city of Rieti became the Bryant family’s first Italian home when Joe Bryant signed for the local team AMG Sebastiani Rieti in 1984, when six-year-old Kobe was already a budding basketball player.
AMG Sebastiani Rieti folded in the 1990s. A new club, NPC Rieti, was formed in 2011, and plays at the same venue as Joe Bryant’s old team, the PalaSojourner.
It was there that Kobe was honored in a pregame ceremony on February 5, before NPC’s game against Scafati in Italy’s second tier. On the night, NPC Rieti fans held up a banner which read: “You began to play here and as an adult you made us dream. Our colors are with you in the sky.”
Bryant snr played for several more Italian teams, and one in France, before the family moved back stateside when Kobe was a teenager. By then, Kobe had become fluent in Italian, as well as a lifelong AC Milan fan.
Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianni, and seven other people, were killed on January 26 when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed into a hillside in Southern California.