In the 12 years since Kate and Richard Bayer bought the house with the winding driveway and carefully pruned flowerbeds, they’ve taken in young men — mostly 18- and 19-year-olds who had aged out of the foster care system — and given them a stable place to stay as they consider what to do with their lives.
These guests arrived at a parcel of affluent suburbia studded with history — it’s one of Kobe Bryant’s childhood homes. Inside the house, in Wynnewood, they slept in the young Bryant’s bedroom. Outside, they played basketball using the hoop that once belonged to the Lower Merion High star and future Los Angeles Laker.
Bryant is regarded as one of the greatest NBA players of all time. He retired in 2016 and was killed in January, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, in a helicopter crash in California.
The Bayers, now retired and with plans to move to Florida for health reasons, put their house up for sale on Friday. They will leave items that the Bryant family left behind to the new owner, they said, with the hope that they respect the history — the basketball hoop, three basketballs, a Sports Illustrated magazine, and newspaper clippings from 1992 — and pass it onto future residents.
“Families lived here," Kate Bayer said. “It’s not a tourist trap.”
Thousands of people viewed the real estate listing over the weekend, and interested buyers hailed from places including Beverly Hills, Calif., and India, said Bayer, the former owner of a career consulting business.
She and her husband, who once worked as a missionary in South Dakota and as a professor of economics and ethics at Fordham University, received their first bid within hours of the 3,434-square-foot house coming onto the market at $899,900.
“We have people driving in from Missouri, from Ohio," said David Wyher, the real estate agent for the Bayers' home. "We have people coming in from all over just to see the house; now, we’ve got appointments to go look at it, and there are legitimate buyers coming in from all sorts of places.”
When the Bayers bought the house from Joe and Pamela Bryant in February 2008, they didn’t know whom the Bryants were, or that Joe “Jellybean” Bryant had played for the 76ers.
When the Bayers moved in, Kobe Bryant had long ago left Lower Merion High as one of its most notable graduates. He joined the NBA at age 17. Over a career of more than two decades, Bryant led his team to five championships from 2000 to 2010. The New York Times considered him to have had “one of the most decorated careers in the history of sport."
This year, as the Bayers began to prepare their house for market, they found a stack of publications that the Bryant family had left behind.
“There are some old magazines from the Main Line Times mentioning Kobe coming in as a freshman," said Wyher, the Bayers' agent, adding that a “Sports Illustrated is neat because it’s a Michael Jordan cover addressed to a 14-year-old Kobe. All of those items are staying because it means something, and it’s a big part of our local history."
Even so, Bayer said, some people have expressed interest in the Bryant items more than the house itself.
“People want the basketballs and the hoop, but not the house," she said. “And it’s like, ‘Well, I don’t think so, but let’s just wait and see how the whole thing plays out.'"
With vigorous interest in the house, Kate Bayer said, she hoped to sell soon. Wyher, her real estate agent, said Monday that they had already received a few offers and were vetting the prospective buyers.
“To get into the Main Line for under a million — it’s a great opportunity, but you also have a story," he said. “You can say, ‘Hey, this was Kobe Bryant’s bedroom; this was Kobe Bryant’s basketball net.’” And the boys who came after Kobe — the boys the Bayers took in as the basketball star was at the height of his career — “were just tickled they got to sleep in Kobe’s room.”