Kobe Bryant is being remembered by fans all over the world, but in his hometown of Philadelphia, the late NBA legend holds a very special place in fans’ hearts.
Bryant, who died alongside his daughter, Gianna, on Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, is being remembered by the high school that helped start his career. Before he was a Laker, Kobe was an Ace at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, located just outside of the City of Brotherly Love.
In a poignant tribute posted to Instagram, the Philadelphia-area high school remembered its most famous son with a black-and-white photo of him standing in the school gym, basketball in hand, wearing an “Aces Nation” t-shirt.
In a heartbreaking post, the school recalled Kobe’s early days as a skinny 14-year old starting out in the main gym as a freshman in 1991. Kobe is described as “our teammate,” “brother,” “friend,” “advocate,” “inspiration” and “heartbeat.” Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, a budding basketball star herself, is described as “the keeper of his iridescent, irrepressible flame.”
The school announced that it will take some time to process Kobe’s death and to decide how to appropriately honor his extraordinary life.
Commenters responded with broken heart emoji as they said goodbye to Lower Merion’s beloved #33.
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Our hearts are broken. We are struggling to process. We are numb with shock, sadness, and disbelief. Kobe was our teammate, our brother, our friend, our advocate, our inspiration, our heartbeat. And Gigi was the keeper of his iridescent, irrepressible flame. Our love and prayers are with Vanessa and the entire family, for now and always. Kobe brought the world to Lower Merion. He meant the world to Aces Nation. It is impossible to express his impact on our basketball family and our community. His love, generosity and support never wavered. He was us and we were him. And he made us proud. So damn proud. We will need time to mourn, breathe, and reflect before we can even try to appropriately honor such an extraordinary life taken from us so unimaginably soon. But perhaps Kobe’s greatest legacy is how he brought us all together. The skinny 14-year old kid who first took the Main Gym floor in 1991, then took us on an epic ride we will never forget did the same for millions more. We all felt like we were in it together. A common bond, an understanding – a Mamba mentality. That will never change. The world has lost a virtuoso and a champion of champions. We have lost our Ace. Rest In Peace, 33. Rest In Peace, Mambacita. We love you. ????♠️
On Monday morning, the staff and students at the high school where Kobe took his first steps towards his future NBA career remembered him with a period of silence less than 24 hours after his death shocked the world.
“We had 33 seconds of silence for Kobe this morning,” school district spokeswoman Amy Buckman told NBC News. “Why 33? That was the number on his jersey.”
Buckman said the school will have counselors on hand to help the students who might need help processing Kobe’s death. She also said the school’s basketball teams will pay tribute to Kobe for the rest of the season, as students try to cope with this immense loss.
Indeed, Lower Merion never forgot Kobe and he most certainly never forgot his alma mater.
“Lower Merion and everything associated with it made me who I am,” Bryant said in 2016, per USA Today.
In the 24 years since Kobe graduated — leaving 2,883 points and a state championship in his wake — the school gym he later donated funds to now bears his name. Two photos of the NBA great and his teammates hang on the walls amid photos of other accomplished athletes from the school.