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Kobe Bryant 'learned to play in Italy' - Mattarella

Kobe Bryant 'learned to play in Italy' - Mattarella

Late NBA great attended Italian schools from six to 13

28 Gennaio 2020

Benevento, January 28 - Kobe Bryant learned to play basketball in Italy where the late NBA great spent seven years from the ages of six to 13, President Sergio Mattarella recalled Tuesday. "All the sporting world is saddened by the death of Kobe Bryant" in a helicopter crash in LA Sunday, Mattarella said at the inauguration of the academic year at Sannio University in Benevento. "A sadness that is based not only on his abilities and popularity but also because he learned to play in our country and in our elementary and middle schools". "The sharing of study is what really links humanity more than political, institutional and economic links, and it is the antidote to international uncertainties". Bryant, 41, died aged 41 along with one of his four daughters. He gave them all Italian names. Bryant did a lot of his growing up in Italy spending the ages of six to 13 at Italian schools as his father played in the Italian basketball league. In Rieti, his first Italian stop, basketball fans said "all the hearts of Rieti people are stopping in these minutes, because there is a chill in our souls and choked-back tears, and we remember all the games of his dad Joe". In Reggio Calabria, where Joe moved to next, locals recalled Bryant as "already a phenomenon at the age of nine". A Parma opponent playing against his youth team famously asked "how can you stop him? Hit him?" The home of another of Bryan's youth teams, Reggio Emilia, said it would name a square after him. "He was one of us: here, and in the small courts around the city, he improvised challenges with athletes much bigger than him, with school mates. His smile, his love for basketball entered into our hearts, and a bit of Reggio Emilia entered him forever, as he told us when he came back a few years ago to our city, which he called home," said Mayor Luca Vecchi. "Rest in peace Kobe, Reggio Emilia won't forget you". Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora recalled Bryant as an "immense champion, a positive symbol, a great man". "His tragic death leaves everyone without words," he said. "The NBA star started shooting his first hoops in Italy, when he was a little boy, when his father played in our basketball championship". AS Roma soccer legend Francesco Totti said "I salute a great man and a great player, whom I had the pleasure to meet". Bryant often came to Italy to see old friends. He also gave his two daughters Italian names, including Gianna Maria, the 13-year-old who died with him in the copter crash. Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo said "rest in peace legend". Veteran commentator and ex-coach Dan Peterson, the man credited with boosting basketball's popularity in Italy, said "Kobe was very much attached and grateful to Italy. "He always said he learned the fundamentals and playing smarts in Italy. "He always said he was more a foreign and international player than American, and to be very appreciative and grateful to those who taught him how to play".

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