In 1996, the news was full of how the NBA was considering drafting some hotshot kid right out of high school. A 17-year-old! Would the pros chew up and spit him out? Would he crash and burn from his immaturity? He did not. That was Lower Merion Ace Kobe Bryant, who yesterday announced his retirement after this season, his 20th with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But back in 1996, his teammates and coaches at Lower Merion High in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, were focused on winning the state championship. At the same time, the rest of the sports world was focused on that one kid that stood out.
Gregg Downer [Head coach] When your best player is your hardest working player, first in the gym, last out of the gym, first in every drill, first in every weight room activity, that makes it easier. But it did put a lot of pressure on me. I used to say, “We’re one Kobe Bryant sprained ankle away from being an average team.” Anything less than a state championship would have been viewed as a disappointment.
Jeanna Mastriano [English Teacher] During his senior year he flew all over and missed days at a time. When he returned, he always showed up with assignments that were due.
Drew Downer [Assistant coach] I used to give him FedEx packages from Duke or Kentucky. Half the time I don’t know if he ever opened it. I’d be like, “Dude, that’s from Duke!” But it was probably like the 17th package he’d gotten from Coach K.
Robby Schwartz [teammate] If you think about the times, 1995-96, it was like the first reality show. By the end, if there wasn’t a camera crew at practice that was the weird thing.
Lower Merion won the state championship that year for the first time in 53 years, and they’ve won twice since then. Mashable has an oral history of Kobe Bryant’s high school basketball career with recollections from those who were there. You don’t have to be a basketball fan to find it riveting. -via Digg