For the first time since the NBA legend that was their most famous alumnus died, the Lower Merion Aces played at Kobe Bryant Gymnasium.
The high school in the Philadelphia metropolitan area on Saturday afternoon honored Bryant — who played four years there before heading to the NBA as an 18-year-old — before the game.
There was a 33-second moment of silence and a video tribute. The school also re-unveiled a framed version of Bryant’s No. 33 jersey, the uniform having recently been returned to the school after it was stolen. CNN affiliate WPVI reported in March that the replica jersey autographed by Bryant had been bought by a collector in China, who suspected it had been stolen and returned it.
Assistant Coach Doug Young, who played with Bryant at Lower Merion, told the crowd that the school was drawing solace by banding together as a family.
He talked about the joy brought to their games in the 1990s by Bryant’s family.
“When my teammates and I played for the Aces one of the things that we found our greatest joy in was looking up in the stands and seeing Kobe’s family smiling and cheering and being so loud and enthusiastic and supportive in the crowd. Cheering him on and cheering us on,” he said, according to video shot by CNN affiliate KYW.
He said it was an incredible example of positivity and unconditional love.
Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer, who coached Bryant during the 1993-1996 seasons, told reporters after the game basketball was helping him heal.
“It’s been a long week but I’m gaining strength, feeling stronger. Today was therapeutic for me,” he said, according to KYW.
Bryant’s cousin John Cox and his family joined the coaches on the court for the jersey reveal. The video tribute ended with the names of the nine victims of the helicopter crash.
Lower Merion defeated Souderton High School 42-37 in overtime.