Imhotep Charter senior Kamrohn Roundtree has worn jersey No. 24 since middle school.
Roundtree, a 6-foot-7 forward for the Panthers, said he has always preferred that uniform because it was the same number that Kobe Bryant wore with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He’s been my favorite player since I was little,” Roundtree said Sunday after Imhotep Charter’s 38-35 victory over Haverford School in the All-City Classic at Archbishop Wood. "I wear No. 24 because of Kobe."
Roundtree said he was “at a loss for words” after learning that Bryant had died Sunday at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash in California.
“To find out he died, it really hit me hard,” Roundtree said. “To find this out, it was crazy. God rest his soul and prayers for his family.”
Archbishop Wood junior Jaylen Stinson said news of Bryant’s death hit him hard before the Vikings’ game vs. Brooklyn Collegiate in the All-City Classic.
“I almost cried,” Stinson said. "He was one of the main reasons I started playing basketball. That was my favorite player.
"He’s the main reason I like the Lakers now. Growing up in Philly it was always like, ‘Why do you like the Lakers?’
“I was always, ‘Kobe.’”
There was a moment of silence for Bryant before the national anthem in advance of Archbishop Wood’s game against Brooklyn Collegiate.
“I’m still in shock,” Wood coach John Mosco sad. "When they put it through the crowd, you could tell people were shocked.
"He meant a lot of Philadelphia. I’m older, I go back to Jellybean Bryant [Kobe’s father].
“He always was a class act. Played the game hard, played the game the right way. You don’t get where he got with God-given ability. You have to work at it.”
Imhotep Charter senior Elijah Taylor, a Notre Dame recruit, said Bryant was renowned for his passion for the game and his game-in-and-game-out effort.
“When I think of Kobe, I think of his effort and his passion, what he gave to the game,” Taylor said. “He wasn’t my favorite player, but I always admired that about him.”
Archbishop Wood junior Daeshon Shepherd, the MVP of his team’s 65-63 win over Brooklyn Collegiate, said Bryant was one of his basketball role models.
“Kobe was somebody I used to look up to,” Shepherd said. “He inspired a lot of kids. He inspired me. You could always see that Kobe loved the game.”
Taylor said Bryant’s death was a major topic for the players and coaches in their postgame meeting after the victory over the Haverford School.
“We just finished talking about that and the thing that we took from it is if we could just extract 100th of what he gave, his heart and his passion, we could be a great team,” Taylor said. "It’s sad to hear. I was actually hoping it was a rumor because it was all over social media.
“It’s a hurt piece in the basketball world.”
Imhotep Charter coach Andre Noble, whose team won its eighth game in a row on Sunday, said Bryant represented the pursuit of excellence — on the court, in the business world, in all aspects of life.
“Kobe Bryant is a guy that gave everything he had every minute he was out there,” Noble said. " Even in the post-basketball world with his business ventures. When I think of Kobe Bryant, I think of a person who also was excellent at what he did.”
Archbishop Wood junior guard Rahsool Diggins said Bryant’s death showed the fragility of life.
“It just goes to show how you can’t take anything for granted, it all can be taken away in any moment,” Diggins said.
Noble said he hoped Bryant’s death would remind his players of the importance of making the most of every day.