Lower Merion basketball community pays tribute to retiring Kobe Bryant

Ardmore – After Kobe Bryant officially announced his decision to retire as an NBA player at the end of the 2015-16 season Sunday, the Lower Merion basketball community paid tribute to the former Ace.

Lower Merion boys basketball coach Gregg Downer released a statement Sunday night regarding Kobe’s announcement:

“Kobe has meant so much to our programand the Lower Merion community for more than 20 years and that legacy will liveon long after his NBA playing days are over. I am incredibly proud of all he has accomplished on the court — from our magical state title in 1996 to his extraordinary career as one of the greatest and most respected basketball players of all time. He sets the bar for what is possible through hard work, determination and passion for success and will continue to be an inspiration to generations of Aces and young people around the world.

“I am perhaps most proud of how Kobe has grown as a person; from a shy, skinny, 14-year old kid entering high school to a loving and devoted father and husband and statesman of sport who has never forgotten his roots. We are grateful for his ongoing generosity and commitment to Lower Merion High School and the Aces basketball family and we wish him continued success in the weeks and months ahead. Kobe is and will forever be an Ace.”

Lower Merion junior Noah Fennell, who along with LM freshmen Darryl Taylor and Steve Payne had the opportunity to travel out to Kobe Bryant’s camp in the summer of 2014, talked about Kobe’s camp during Monday’s Maroon Madness at Lower Merion’s Kobe Bryant Gymnasium.

Fennell said, “[Kobe’s camp]was an awesome moment and one that I will never forget. It was great learning from kids who came from all over the world along with the LM coaches.

“Meeting Kobe was insane. Everyone would love the opportunity to meet Kobe, and knowing you went to the same school is a cool thought. We learned many valuable lessons, including tomake sure you leave everything on the court. He also taught me to have a goodwork ethic which I will carry into this season. Everything he has accomplished is due to his work ethic and it was reflected at Lower Merion.”

Payne said, “To learn from Kobe was unbelievable. I did not think I would get chosen to go but it was a fun and memorable time. To meet one of the best players of all time who played at Lower Merion was special. Playing at his camp helped us a lot. We played with older kids at the camp who made us better.”

Taylor: “It was great to learn from Kobe. It was a memorable experience that I will never forget. The camp definitely helped us get ready for high school and the upcoming season playing against tough competition every day.”

Bryant’s NBA career includes five championship rings, 17 All-Star selections, an 81-point game that ranks as the second-best in NBA history and more than 32,000 points. During Sunday’s press conference, Bryant reflected on his upcoming return to Philly, with mentions of Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer, Lower Merion and the Ardmore Playground.

On Tuesday against the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center, Bryant started the game looking like he was going to make the most of his final NBA game in Philadelphia, scoring the Lakers first 11 points of the night (including 3 three-pointers) but the Sixers earned their first win of the season, 103-91. Bryant finished the evening with a team-high 20 points on 7-for-26 shooting (4-for-17 from three-point arc) along with five rebounds and two assists.
Just before Tuesday’s game, Philadelphia honored Bryant by presenting him with a replica Lower Merion jersey with his Lakers No. 24. Accompanying with the presentation was 76ers legend and Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Lower Merion boys’ basketball head coach Gregg Downer, who coached Kobe when he was with the Aces. In the pre-game introductions, Kobe received a spirited ovation from the fans.
Kobe said, “[The fans’ ovation] got me – I wasn’t expecting that type of reaction. It was emotional, and I deeply appreciate it. You can’t script this stuff. The appreciation I have for this city means everything to me. [In the pre-game ceremony], with my high school coach being there, and Dr. J being there, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
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