This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on Dec. 9, 1993.
There comes a time when a teenager suddenly finds himself stronger and more agile than his father, when the old man’s legs can’t keep up and the child begins winning their one-on-one battles in the driveway.
Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion's 6-foot-5 star sophomore, still has not reached that point.
Bryant, who averaged 18 points a game last season for the Aces, took his father on over the summer, and here's what happened:
"He let me go by him once, then the next play he went right by me, stuffed it on me," Bryant said. "I didn't think he was that quick. He shocked me. "
Of course, Bryant's father isn't just anybody. He's Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, the 6-9 former professional who played in the late 1970s for the 76ers, among other NBA teams, and later played in Italy.
And while at this point Kobe Bryant hasn't reached the talent level of his father, he's certainly showing people he has the potential.
"He does it all," Aces coach Gregg Downer said of Bryant, the team's leading scorer last season. "He's a very, very complete ballplayer, and at this time he's got the total package - he can shoot, he can rebound, and he led us in three-pointers and in free-throw percentage last year. He doesn't have a weakness, and we're very excited to work with someone of his caliber. "
This season, Bryant is likely to have to shoulder much of the burden of trying to turn around the Aces, who went 4-20 in 1992-93. But he isn't feeling any strain in being the player his teammates are apt to turn to.
"I don't think of it as pressure," Bryant said. "I'm young, and to me it's just fun and games. You just have to look forward to it and do the best you can. If you come through, then great. If you don't, then hold your head up and come back the next game. "
Bryant should get a helping hand from some other Aces, notably senior Matt
Snider, a 6-2 center who averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, and sophomore Jermainne Griffin, a 6-3 forward who transferred in from New York City.
Others who should contribute are returning guards Joe Dixon, a senior, and Guy Stewart, a junior, and senior Doug Young, a 6-3 forward whom Downer said he would rely on heavily.
"We were very young last year, lost a lot of close games, and everything that could go wrong did," said Downer, whose team was 3-15 in the Central League. "The big thing was inexperience. This year, we're experienced, and
inexperience is a thing of the past. "
Downer said he would be pleased if the Aces could go over .500, climb near the top of the league, and earn a district playoff berth.
And Bryant, for one, is confident the Aces can go far beyond their
disappointing season in 1992-93.
"So far, the preseason's been going great, and I think we'll be a lot better than 4-20," Bryant said. "I'm just going to go out and play harder,
because last year wasn't good enough. "
After spending 1985 to 1992 in Italy, where he played on club teams, Kobe Bryant said he feels a freshness in showcasing his talent in the area where his father grew up and was a star at Bartram High and an all-American at La Salle University.
"At Sixers games, all people ever tell me is that he was a great player, and I love it," Kobe Bryant said. "Whenever I step on the court, I think of that, that my dad went through this and now I'm going through it. "
Bryant said he tries to emulate his father when he's on the court, a philosophy that sounds much like a sneaker advertisement: have fun, play hard.