Kobe Bryant remembered by OC community as a family man, good neighbor

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - (KABC) -- The Newport community where Kobe Bryant lived remembers the Lakers star as a down-to-earth, family man.

Murals commemorating the Lakers legend have popped up throughout Orange County in the year following the tragic helicopter crash where Kobe, his daughter Gianna and seven others lost their lives.

The images depict more than a five-time NBA champion -- they show a devoted father and husband.

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That's how many remember Bryant in the O.C. community where he lived.

Locals captured a recording of the evening before the fatal flight. In it, the Black Mamba is seen with one of his "Mambacitas," as he affectionately called his wife and daughters. The pair enjoyed a walk around Fashion Island, just a short drive away from their Newport Coast home.

Sightings like these were not rare in the community.

The father of four frequented the Newport Coast Shopping Center, running errands -- just like his neighbors.

That's where Lukas Plascencia met one of his idols.

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The then eight-year-old was shocked that the NBA star was down-to-earth -- giving him much more than the time of day.

"He said that like either way no matter what sport I play, I should give it my all and I think that's something that stuck with me, 'cause like even when I find myself in difficult situations in the game, I can look back at that and it gives me motivation," Plascencia said. "It's something that you could hear from anyone, but hearing it from like a legend like him just makes it 10 times better."

Locals told Eyewitness News warm hellos from Bryant were as common as his Starbucks runs for vanilla lattes.

Vince Mazzara remembered running into the NBA star outside the coffee shop.

"Kobe had this aura of invincibility, this celebrity status that was like universal and then for me to think, I just passed the guy. He's wearing sweats, he's wearing a t-shirt, he's real, he's a normal person," Mazzara said. "So, there were those two sides. It's hard to reconcile his incredible stardom with just how cool of a guy he was."

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His nickname at Pavilions was Señor Kobe, who took the time to take selfies and joke with employees while picking up groceries.

When grabbing a bite to eat, the owner of Mustard Café said Bryant went for the paninis and tomato bisque, but according to Arsalan Turkzadeh, Gianna was all about the French toast.

"Kobe used to come like at least once or twice a week just to come grab French toast for the family, so I ended up renaming it Gigi's French Toast in honor of Gigi," Turkzadeh said.

Talk was rarely about basketball.

"I think right off the top we vibed 'cause we're both girl dads," Turkzadeh said.

Bryant was a father and husband who built a reputation as a good neighbor, leaving behind his community's support for his family.

"The things that Vanessa is probably going through right now, is, I couldn't even imagine. We love her and we support her," Turkzadeh said.

O.C. joined Los Angeles County in declaring Aug. 24, or 8/24, Kobe Bryant Day, in honor of his jersey numbers.

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