Fans flooded to the Staples Center to pay their respects and honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter after they, along with seven other passengers, died in a helicopter crash in California last month.

One person in the sea of No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys had a connection more to Kobe that was more personal than most. Jeffrey McKenzie considered Kobe far more than just an NBA player. To McKenzie, he was an inspiration during the hardest of times. 

As a child, McKenzie was told he would not live past the age of five. He was diagnosed as a baby with the debilitating blood disorder sickle cell anemia, and spent a lot of his childhood in the hospital. Now 28, McKenzie spoke with CBS Evening News about what Bryant meant to him and how meeting the Lakers star impacted his life. 

Jeffrey McKenzie as a child. Jeffrey McKenzie

McKenzie said he could not count the amount of times he was in the hospital as a kid, adding that is wasn't even his second home -- it was his first. 

Through all the tests, IVs and long days at the hospital, McKenzie kept going, hoping one day he would meet his idol, Kobe Bryant. That day came after the Make-A-Wish Foundation reached out to him and asked what his top wishes were. The young Kobe fan was more than prepared with an answer. 

"You can have three wishes and I gave them, meet Kobe Bryant, go to a Lakers game to meet Kobe Bryant and meet Kobe Bryant," he said. "He was like my superman. I had to meet him."

At 8, McKenzie came face-to-face with his version of superman for the first time. Bryant did not do a group meeting with other kids and he did not bring any press. It was just McKenzie, his family and his idol. 

Kobe Bryant meeting Jeffrey McKenzie for the first time. Jeffrey McKenzie

McKenzie's mom, Linda, said it was amazing that, despite being a superstar, he made time for each kid individually. Bryant granted wishes for over 200 children during his career and Make-A-Wish says he was one of the most-requested athletes from kids. 

"At first I freaked out. I was just like stunned," McKenzie said, reflecting on the moment they met.

McKenzie and Bryant crossed paths a second time when his mom snuck him out of the hospital, and they met a third time outside the team locker room. 

Kobe Bryant and Jeffrey McKenzie meeting for the second time. Jeffrey McKenzie

McKenzie still sees Kobe as a father figure.

"I literally look at him like one of my fathers. Like my dad and Kobe Bryant, those are the top two men in my life," he said.

What Bryant taught many, including McKenzie, spanned far beyond the court. The way he spoke about his daughters and how he prioritized time with his family was the impression that lasts the longest on his fans. 

"I hope I have all girls now," McKenzie said. "I wanna be a girl dad. I wanna be there for my daughters like he was."