RIETI, Italy (AP) — The first Italian basketball team that Kobe Bryant’s father played for retired the Lakers superstar’s jersey to the rafters in a pregame ceremony Wednesday.
“You began to play here and as an adult you made us dream. Our colors are with you in the sky,” read a huge banner in Italian that fans of NPC Rieti held up before the game against Scafati in Italy’s second division.
Then a gold Lakers’ jersey with Bryant’s No. 24 was lifted to the ceiling of the PalaSojourner arena as a recording of Bryant’s lineup introduction from his NBA playing days was played.
Rieti was where Joe Bryant, Kobe’s father, made his Italian basketball debut in 1984. Kobe was 6 at the time. Joe Bryant went on to play for three other teams in Italy and Kobe grew up in the country until moving back to Pennsylvania for high school.