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Bryant's 'Cantine Riunite' youth team in the early 1990's in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Bryant is in the top row, third from the left.
Bryant’s ‘Cantine Riunite’ youth team in the early 1990’s in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Bryant is in the top row, third from the left.

Davide Giudici, a friend and former childhood teammate of Kobe Bryant, spoke to CNN today about the passing of the NBA legend.

Giudici played with Bryant in the 1990s in the small Italian city of Reggio Emilia. As 11 and 12-year-olds, they practiced several days a week together on Cantine Riunite, a junior basketball team named for a local winemaker of region’s signature sparkling red.

“We had a strong team, but he was better than all of us. At 11 years old, he was already very secure in his power and what he would become,” Giudici, 41, told CNN. “I mean, I think we knew he was going to become a professional basketball player. We didn’t know then that he was going to be one of the biggest stars in the world.”

Kobe’s father, Joe Bryant, played in Italy for several years, and was already locally famous when they moved to Reggio Emilia, Giudici said.

“We spent two years with Kobe and he spoke very fluent, very perfect Italian so he was like a friend of ours,” Giudici said.

Kobe Bryant’s time in Reggio remains a point of pride for many, the kind of thing that comes up in conversation when people explain where their hometown is. Giudici says that even locals who have no interest in basketball claim Kobe Bryant as their own.

Giudici who is now a graphic designer, but plays locally, said he first found out about Bryant’s death through a flood of messages from friends.

“I saw like 40 Whatsapp messages: ‘Can you believe it? Did you see what happened? Did you hear what happened to Kobe?’” he said.

“My first concern was for his family. And it’s unbelievable, almost comic, that he died bringing his daughter to play basketball,” he said.

 “It’s unbelievable. We are all fragile,” Giudici said. “Even if Kobe is like a superstar, a superman, unfortunately we are all fragile.”

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