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.
Kobe Bryant died last month with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California. He was 41.