Basketball: NZ Breakers star RJ Hampton struck by death of idol Kobe Bryant

RJ Hampton once dreamed of playing against Kobe Bryant - now he hopes to honour the NBA legend's legacy.

Bryant tragically died on Monday (NZ time), when his private helicopter crashed into the hilly terrain of Calabasas in Los Angeles.

Hampton, the NZ Breakers star recruit for the current Australian NBL season, grew up idolising the Los Angeles Lakers great, after meeting Bryant as a young boy.

Speaking to The Rock radio station, Hampton said he spent hours of his youth on the basketball court, imitating his favourite player.

"Kobe was my idol," Hampton said. "We had a full half-court basketball court in the backyard of our house and I remember watching Kobe play, and then going outside and mimicking everything he did.

"Be it five in the morning or 11 at night, I just wanted to be like Kobe."

Hampton's father played high-level US college basketball in the 1990s and through his connections, he was able to introduce his son to Bryant when Hampton was still an infant.

"My dad took me to meet him when I was one or two and I'm super grateful for that.

"I also remember seeing him play live in the playoffs in 2011 against Oklahoma City - my dad took me to that and that was a crazy experience.

"It hurts [Bryant's death] and I think, for a lot of people, we won't be getting over this anytime soon."  

While the projected top-10 NBA draft pick has a career of his own to shape, Hampton plans some sort of tribute to Bryant in coming weeks.

The 18-year-old's playing future with the Breakers is unclear, as he recovers from injury, but he hopes that tribute will take place on court, before the end of the season. 

"I always dreamed of playing against Kobe and then once he retired, that dream became to play in front of him, so with his passing, that's gone.

"I'm thinking of some sort of tribute for him that you might see in the next week or so."

Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people also lost their lives in the crash.