"I'm just very thankful to be back here," Kobe Bryant said.
Throughout the sprawling halls of Lower Merion High School, the perennial all star, 5-time NBA Champion, and certified sports legend got the royal treatment. The walls were papered with images of his storied high school years including a state championship in 1996 and nearly 3,000 points scored. The halls were peppered with people who count themselves both friends and fans. Among them were students, former teammates, and Kobe's high school coach Gregg Downer.
"I thought that he was potentially the best high school player that I had ever seen, and I knew it was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity. He was doing things as a basketball player that I had never seen," Downer said.
The sold out event packed the seats of newly named Bryant Gymnasium raising tens of thousands of dollars for the school district, to which Bryant donated $411,000, the bulk of which helped build the gym.
And while the event may come 14 years after his days at Lower Merion, it comes one night before his Lakers take on our Sixers and those at the high school were fully behind the Sixers.
Kobe may be always welcome, but the Lakers, less so.