As world mourns NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his Augusta family remembers the brave and strong young man

Monday, Jan. 27, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Kobe Bryant's distant family in Augusta is also mourning the NBA legend's passing. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- As the world mourns NBA legend Kobe Bryant, we're learning about an Augusta connection.

Kobe's grandparents actually lived here back in the 50s and those grandparent's cousins are still here.

The news spread quickly. Two thousand miles away from a smoke-filled canyon in Los Angeles, the Johnson family in Augusta learned the death of their distant cousin.

“It hurt,” one of the Johnsons said. “Even though we didn’t really know Kobe, we know the family.”

It had been years since brothers Leroy and Henry had seen Kobe.

"I saw him when he was a little one crawling around the floor,” one of them said.

But the memories of the basketball legend as a young boy were always just a few newspaper clippings away.

"He was a great basketball player, and when he first went up they compared him to Michael Jordan and I think in many respects he passed a lot of Michael Jordan's records,” Henry said.

Kobe Bryant was a star from day one.

His family says he was brave and strong like his grandfather -- their cousin -- who fought in the Army for 20 years.

His death leaves a hole in the world, and a legacy that will be remembered for decades.

"Kids that know they can come from nothing and become very popular and successful in life and the basketball game, not just in basketball but in life itself and dealing with people,” one of the brothers said.

It’s hard to believe that Kobe’s family was right here in Augusta. The Johnson's say there's actually a long line of Kobe's father's relatives still living in the area. They all have kids and many of them, like Kobe, love basketball.

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