Kobe Bryant’s shrine robbed from Lower Merion High School
Lower Merion is home to a number of great things including Larry’s Steaks, Saint Joseph’s University, and NBA legend Kobe Bryant to name a few. Most sports fans know that Bryant has earned the Los Angeles Lakers five championship rings, but not many know that he also led Lower Merion High School to four consecutive Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) state championship games.
Lower Merion High School is located just three miles from the Saint Joseph’s University campus; so close that in his high school days, Bryant could be found practicing at Hagan Arena or at Larry’s devouring one of their famous cheesesteaks. To the community, he is a hometown hero, which is why there is a trophy case dedicated to him at his old high school.
Outside of what is now named Kobe Bryant Gymnasium, there are several pieces of memorabilia including a replica of his high school jersey, sneakers signed by Bryant, and even the 1996 PIAA state basketball championship trophy that he won the Lower Merion Aces his senior year.
On Feb. 6, these items were stolen from the display case at Lower Merion High School. While the items have a great cash value because of their connection to Bryant, they were of even greater sentimental value.
Former Lower Merion Aces who are now Hawks recognize the significance of Bryant’s legacy in the community.
“It [the Bryant shrine] is definitely symbolic in a way,” said freshman Michael Park, a Lower Merion graduate. “We would always make jokes about Kobe showing up to events just to get people to go.”
Even as a celebrity whose high school career ended 21 years ago, Bryant was still disheartened and shocked by the news, according to Lower Merion basketball coach Gregg Downer in a statement to Philly.com. This is not much of a surprise, as he was spotted at Larry’s Steaks just last year, proving he comes back to his hometown every once in awhile.
Freshman Jonathan Dunleavy also attended Lower Merion and played basketball there for a year. Dunleavy recognizes the value of Bryant’s trophy case.
“At the end of the day, it’s Kobe Bryant; he did amazing things in high school and beyond,” Dunleavy said. “A market will always be there for a state championship game worn jersey among other things.”
Despite the monetary value of the items, it is unclear why someone would disrupt the case after so many years.
“I was pretty surprised [by the theft],” Park said. “I feel like no one in our school would do that.”
In a letter to the Lower Merion community, Principal Sean Hughes and Athletic Director Don Walsh expressed the importance of the memorabilia to the school and surrounding area.
“The ‘Kobe Showcase’ has become a unique point of pride for our school and even a tourist attraction; many basketball fans from all over the world visit our school each year to take photos in front of the display and leave even more impressed by the warmth, kindness and spirit of the LM [Lower Merion] students and staff,” Hughes and Walsh wrote.
The legacy that Bryant left to put Lower Merion, Pa. on the map goes far beyond the phsyical pieces of memorabilia that were taken from the high school.