There aren’t too many things that make Kobe Bryant nervous. He’s had the basketball in his hands on basketball’s biggest stages like in the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal game where he literally took over the clutch including a historic, ice cold three pointer despite being fouled for a four point play. His immediate finger-over-the-mouth gesture afterward was symbolic of his intensive and focused play in crunch-time situations. Yet it was a small crowd of 4,000 at his old high school last Thursday evening that made Kobe Bryant admit, “I’m actually nervous.”
Donating $411,000 to help build exhibits within the gym, Kobe Bryant will have the old gym at Lower Merion High School now named in his honor. The night was full of smiles and emotion for Kobe; who wants to help the “next generation of students” reach their goals like Bryant before them. A sense of homecoming was embraced by Kobe who had this to say about the gym via ESPN:
“It’s cool for me,” Bryant said. “That’s obviously where playing in the NBA kind of became a realistic goal. I put a lot of work in, a lot of hours in that gym, with a lot of people that support me and still support me to this day. It will be cool to go back there.”
Throughout the evening, many influential people spoke about Kobe including his current teammate Derek Fisher and old high school coach, Gregg Downer, and English teacher Jeanne Mastriano. Downer even shared a fun fact about Kobe as pointed out by the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Bryant still wears his Lower Merion shorts under his Lakers shorts.”
As for Bryant, returning to his hometown will always be sentimental as he explains, “This is where I came from. This is where I grew up,” Bryant said. “I didn’t go to college. This is my university. This is where my memories lie.”
Kobe Bryant led the Aces to the 1996 state championship prior to announcing his entrance into the NBA draft just months later. With a legacy that continues to grow every moment, it’s a great honor for Kobe who embraces his very own beginnings while striving to aid others in their future.