People all across the globe were devastated on Sunday when news emerged that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a tragic helicopter accident in Los Angeles.
The news shocked NBA players and fans across the United States, but the global basketball icon garnered hundreds of tributes from countries like China, Mexico, the Philippines and Italy. Bryant had a particularly close relationship with Italy because his father played for the Italian Basketball Federation (FIBA), as well as Mexico because his wife is Mexican American.
On Monday, FIBA President Giovanni Petrucci said in a statement that every game will hold a minute-long moment of silence in honor of Bryant, who lived in the country from ages 6 to 13 because his father Joe Bryant was playing professional basketball there.
"A small but heartfelt and dutiful gesture to honor the life and memory of Kobe Bryant, absolute champion who has always had Italy in his heart," Petrucci said.
In a Facebook post, the mayor of Reggio Emilia, where Bryant lived, said the entire town was in mourning and that they would name a square after the basketball legend.
The team his father played for sent out a simple message on Facebook: "Forever one of us."
According to The Washington Post, Bryant spoke to local news outlet il Resto del Carlino about his time in the town and what it meant to him as a person and as a player.
“Why am I so attached to Reggio? Because I have so many special memories. As we were getting here, I was [just saying], ‘Would you have ever thought that one of the NBA’s best players could have grown up here?’ There’s nothing farther from Los Angeles. It means that every dream is achievable,” he said in fluent Italian.
One of his childhood teammates even sent out a childhood photo of themselves playing basketball with him.
Qui eri a #Palmi mentre tiravi dalla lunetta. Giocavi nella #ViolaRC. Eravamo piccini e la star in quel periodo era tuo padre. E nessuno di noi sapeva che stava giocando con quello che sarebbe diventato uno dei più grandi cestisti di sempre. RIP #Kobe
— DarGal (@dargal75) January 26, 2020
Bryant never shed his Italian roots and love for the country, telling Reuters that he would always be a fan of one of the country's best soccer teams.
"Obviously I'm a big AC Milan fan. I always said if you cut my left arm it bleeds black and red and if you cut my right arm it bleeds purple and gold," he said.
There were also dozens of tributes that came out of the Latino community in Los Angeles and in Mexico, who hailed Bryant as one of their own.
More than half of the population of Los Angeles is Latino, and Bryant often thanked them for their undying support as he led the local team to five championships.
"My Latino fans are very important to me because they were the first ones who embraced me the most when I first got here…" — Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was a force of nature and had forged a special connection with his Latino fans. This is heartbreaking. ???? pic.twitter.com/JVg4wc8a9d
— Latino Victory (@latinovictoryus) January 26, 2020
A couple thing I would note about #KobeBryant: He was a member of the Latino community. Period. And he was not just an LA hero. He was global, of course, but all of #SoCal claimed him; he lived in OC and his dad played ball in San Diego.
— Dennis Romero (@dennisjromero) January 27, 2020
Bryant's wife, Vanessa, is Mexican American, and his children were emblematic of the diversity of Los Angeles. As tributes began to pour out on Sunday, dozens of Mexicans and Mexican Americans shared stories of Bryant.
My wife was a nurse at a children's hospital. A young terminally ill patient's (of Mexican heritage) last wish was to meet #KobeBryant. Kobe came, and stayed for over 3 hours playing video games, they ate they had fun. My wife said it was the happiest she ever saw the boy.
— Grady Wilson (@Zotopek) January 26, 2020
Kobe Bryant and his Mex American wife Vanessa were raising LA Black Mexican kids together – a true 21st Century native Angeleno form – and it's just crushing.
— Daniel Hernandez✍???????? (@longdrivesouth) January 27, 2020
While his Spanish was not as good as his Italian, he could still speak it fluently and often gave entire postgame interviews in the language.
The Los Angeles Times reports Bryant would often greet people in Spanish when he went to his wife's favorite restaurant, El Camino Real, in Fullerton.
The 41-year-old superstar leaves behind three daughters, and ESPN has said the network will air his final game at 9 p.m. ET on Monday.