Kobe Bryant made quite the first impression on Shane Heal.
The pair entered the NBA at the same time in 1996 and it didn't take long for one of Australia's greatest basketballers to lock horns with the future great.
"He was only 18 or something and came in with a huge reputation," Heal, who played with Minnesota Timberwolves, recalled to AAP of their first meeting.
"I remembered him blocking my shot and dunking it down the other end.
"So that was my introduction to Kobe Bryant."
And while the moment stamped Heal's fandom of the Los Angeles Lakers icon, it took a couple of decades for Bryant's influence to fully materialise.
Heal is a father to three daughters, including 18-year-old Shyla, who represented the Australian Sapphires at the under-17 World Cup in Belarus.
Bryant is a father to four daughters, including 13-year-old Gianna, who aspired to play in the WNBA and was often seen courtside with her dad at NBA games.
So when news slowly filtered through that Gianna died in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe on Sunday, it hit Heal like nothing else.
"It hit harder because I'd been following (Gianna's) progression. Kobe's passion in helping her, mentoring her ... I'd already been through that," Heal said.
"Through the juniors, the programs, and now Shyla's represented Australia.
"Kobe was talking about the same pathway for his daughter. To realise that she was gone too was shattering. It hit so close to home for me."
Heal was immediately on the phone to Shyla, who is currently playing for the Bendigo Spirit in the WNBL and is also eyeing a move to the WNBA.
"It's been her dream to be able to do all of that," Heal said.
"Her dad being this sports person ... you want more for your own kids than what you had. And I could see Kobe taking that same mindset. It became his passion.
"Speaking to (Shyla) today, I mean, I've still got two daughters at home but Shyla's interstate now playing for their season. It really hit home."
According to Heal, basketball great Michael Jordan was the player that inspired an entire generation of hopefuls during his era, himself included.
Heal believes Bryant has followed in his footsteps.
"When you look at guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, they've had a massive impact globally," Heal said.
"And that includes Australia - we're one of the biggest consumers of NBA in the world. The influence he's had in Australia is massive.
"He scored 81 points in a game, 60 at Madison Square Garden, won titles, and he did it all for one team in LA, which only made him more of a global star."
But for Heal, Bryant is more than a basketball player.
"He was an amazing talent, and I've always been a fan," he said.
"But I've probably become more of a fan since he retired because he's got four daughters, and I've seen his relationship mentoring them.
"It's the passion I have for my daughters as well."