Prominent figures in Italian basketball reacted to the news of Kobe Bryant's death.
Bryant, who lived in Italy from the ages of 6 to 13, was fluent in Italian.
Bryant reportedly came close to signing with Virtus Bologna during the 2011 NBA lockout.
"He was a supernatural. To hear him speak and joke in our language and to remember when his father played here and he was a kid drew a lot of people to the NBA. He was also always very attentive to help Italian kids arriving in the NBA and to help them enter such a tough and competitive world. He also did that with me when I arrived at the Lakers and I'm still very grateful to him for that," said Messina, who worked with Bryant as a Lakers assistant coach.
Italian basketball federation president Giovanni Petrucci also mentioned Bryant's affinity for Italy.
"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. He had a lot of Italian qualities," added Petrucci.