In the gymnasium that bears his name, Kobe Bryant was honored during a 33-second moment of silence Tuesday night before the Lower Merion High School girls’ basketball team’s game against Central League rival Upper Darby.
Standing at center court in Kobe Bryant Gymnasium, Lower Merion principal Sean Hughes called Bryant the school’s “most illustrious" alumnus and praised his generosity and commitment to the school and community.
Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday at the age of 41, was a 1996 Lower Merion graduate. Bryant led the Aces to the PIAA Class AAAA state title in his senior season.
“We were deeply saddened by the passing of our most illustrious alumni, Kobe Bryant,” Hughes said. “Kobe’s’ connection to Lower Merion, where he played basketball prior to joining the NBA, has raised the profile of this school and our district throughout the world.
“Our school community will always be grateful for his ongoing generosity to our school, including his dedication of our Kobe Bryant Gymnasium, and his support for our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.”
Players from the Lower Merion girls’ team took the floor for the first basketball game since Bryant’s death wearing black stripes on their uniforms in honor of the 18-time NBA all-star, five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Players on the Lower Merion boys’ team, which played Tuesday night at Upper Darby, also took the court wearing black stripes on their uniforms, according to a Lower Merion school spokeswoman.
The district said in a statement that during a meeting with both the boys’ and girls’ teams on Monday, boys’ coach Gregg Downer, who had been Bryant’s coach during his four years at the school, told the players, “Kobe would want the balls bouncing, the sneakers squeaking and you doing what he loved and you love.”
After Hughes’ speech, the scoreboard clock on both ends of the court counted down from 0:33 to zero, as Bryant wore No. 33 during his playing days at Lower Merion.
“As a faculty member here for 20-plus years, I can tell you that Kobe’s legacy will forever live in our high school, our basketball programs and this community,” Hughes said. “We love you, Kobe. Thank you.”