Kobe Bryant: Lower Merion Ace to NBA Star

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Kobe Bryant will walk off the basketball court one last time tonight ending a 20 year NBA career.

It will be the 1,566th game of Bryant's career.

But before he took part in his first, the five-time NBA Champion was a student at Lower Merion High School in Montgomery County.

PHOTOS: Kobe Bryant honored during final game in Philadelphia

And on this day, dubbed Mamba Day on social media, there is a lot of reflection back to Bryant's high school years.

On SportsCenter Wednesday night, Kobe's high school coach Gregg Downer shared his memories of the former Lower Merion Ace.

The NBA reminisced about Bryant's Lower Merion days by tweeting a throwback video. On a March night in 1996, Bryant, a 17-year-old senior at the time, was taking in a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls.

Still seemingly undecided about whether he would take his basketball skills to college or declare for the NBA Draft, Bryant was interviewed during the 76ers broadcast on the channel known as PRISM.

"I don't know. I haven't made up my mind yet. Right now, I'm going through the high school season. It's Final Four time, it's the state playoffs, so after Saturday, I'll take time with my family and make the decision," Bryant said.

Bryant was then asked about meeting Michael Jordan before the game, who he addressed as Mr. Jordan.

"It's a great feeling, a person I've always looked up to. It's great when you meet your idol and it's a great experience and hopefully, in the future I'll be able to talk to him some more," Bryant said.

Bryant then said he was looking towards late April, early May of that year to make his final decision.

That decision, of course, was to enter the draft.

In the 1996 NBA Draft, the 76ers had the first pick and chose Allen Iverson. Bryant, whose dad played four seasons in Philadelphia, went 13th to Charlotte. They traded him to Los Angeles and the rest is history.

Almost history. He has one game left.

Bryant's farewell comes at home against Utah.

The Lakers are 16-65, so win or lose this will be the worst season in franchise history - the second straight year they've found a new low. That won't matter. Good tickets for the last game for Bryant were going for about $2,000 on the secondary resale markets late Tuesday, with the best seats at Staples Center going for 10 times that much.

Bryant's Lower Merion roots recently popped up in an Apple ad featuring Creed star Michael B. Jordan. In the commercial, Jordan is researching for his role of playing Bryant in an upcoming movie.

Jordan is even wearing Bryant's high school jersey. The Lower Merion Aces, Bryant's former team, tweeted they had a part in making that happen.

Back in December, Bryant took his goodbye tour to Philadelphia. Bryant was honored before and during the game.

The 76ers would go on to defeat the Lakers and get their first win of the season.

The night before the game, Bryant stopped at his favorite cheesesteak shop - Larry's Steaks in Wynnefield.

PHOTOS: Kobe Bryant eats at Larry's Steaks

As for the score of that March 1996 game, the Bulls defeated the 76ers 98-94.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.