As his NBA “farewell tour” takes a turn for his hometown of Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant took the floor behind the rousing welcome from the adoring Sixers fans.
Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ anchor for the past two decades, announced Sunday that this season will be his last and that the time has come for him to hang up jersey No. 24.
The 37-year-old Bryant was given special recognition by the Sixers, with the arena announcer mentioning the high school state championship he won at Lower Merion High School in 1996.
He may have been a thorn on Philadelphia’s side all these years as an opponent on the court. But there is no denying the fact that Bryant is a pride of the city.
Bryant’s connection to Philadelphia runs deep. He was born here. His father, Joe, played for the Sixers from 1975-79.
Before the game, the Sixers played a video dedicated to the “Black Mamba” entitled “Dear Kobe.”
You’ll always be that kid from Philly raised with that same sense of pride felt within us all. When you moved away, you took a piece of Philly with you.
Tenacity. Passion. Grit. The desire to be a champion.
For nearly two decades you transformed the game. You caused us heartbreak. You reveled in the role of our villain. Now here we are as you embrace our city, your roots, one last time. You’ll always be that kid from Philly and we knew you before the world did.
Gregg Dowell, Bryant’s high school coach, and NBA legend Julius Erving welcomed Bryant at center court of the Wells Fargo Center where he was given a framed Lower Merion No. 24 jersey.
He also had the chance to give a message to those in the stands.
Dr. J & Lower Merion head coach Gregg Downer present Kobe with jersey prior to final game in a Philadelphia… https://t.co/G7PdHWHO6i
— NBA (@NBA) December 2, 2015
In the first five minutes of the game, Bryant came out firing, bagging three three-pointers for the Lakers. He started 3-of-7 on three-pointers and had 13 points on 10 shots in the first eight minutes.