Kobe Bryant Grew Up in Italy, and Was Forever Connected to the Old Country

"It will always be a place close to my heart, always." -Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)

Kobe Bryant spent the better part of his childhood in Italy, and was fluent in Italian.

From ages 6 to 13, Kobe lived with his father, Joe Bryant, who played for several basketball teams in the country, The Washington Post reports.

“All of the NBA players are important, because they’re legends, but he’s particularly important to us because he knew Italy so well, having lived in several cities here,” Italian basketball federation president Giovanni Petrucci told The Associated Press. “He had a lot of Italian qualities.”

“He spoke Italian very well. He even knew the local slang,” Petrucci added.

Related: Italians remember Kobe Bryant, the NBA legend ‘made in Italy’

Bryant, the Philly-born, 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the most iconic basketball players of his generation over a 20-year career with the L.A. Lakers, died Sunday in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif. He was 41.

His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others also perished in the crash.

Bryant, who retired in 2016, would make it a point to help Italian players acclimate to the NBA, as he always held a strong connection to the Old Country.

Other victims of the crash included John Altobelli, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa. Calif., as well as Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa, according to The New York Times.

Kobe is survived by his three children: Natalia Diamante, 17; Bianka Bella, 3; and Capri Kobe, less than 1; and his wife Vanessa Bryant, 37.

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