The buzz that Kobe Bryant received during his days at Lower Merion High School was insane.
The buzz that the school was getting while Bryant, the eventual 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft was getting was was insane.
Every game sold out and lines to get into the gym were around the corner.
Think Beatles, think Warriors, think 90s Chicago Bulls.
“The gym was electric like a final four game,” Bryant’s former Lower Merion classmate, Greg Turner told me.
“We used to have buses jam packed to follow the team across the state to watch them play! Those games were sold out too. We had a chant, “When the Ace is in the house, Oh my God.”
Appearing on the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Bryant’s former Lakers teammate, John Celestand watched Bryant play while Celestand was in college at Villanova University.
We discussed it. Check out a snippet from our dialogue below:
John Celestand on the buzz about Kobe Bryant in high school at Lower Merion…
“Aww man, it was almost SICKENING! [laughs]… I mean, that’s the best word I can use. The one thing I wanna express is I played Kobe Bryant when I was in high school. So even before I got to Villanova, I had played against Kobe Bryant in a Big Time AAU game in Florida. It’s an interesting story because on my team it was me and Elton Brand and on their team it was: Kobe Bryant, Tim Thomas, Richard Hamilton, Vince Carter and Kevin Freeman who went to UConn. The only thing that saved us was that Vince Carter did not show up that day because he was out attending the prom. So he was on the team but he didn’t play. So this was first time playing against Kobe and you know, Tim Thomas I knew about him being from Jersey. He’s from Patterson, I’m from Pisctaway and I played against Tim Thomas in the Tournament of Champions so I knew what he could do. But Kobe Bryant is somebody that I had heard about, but never played against him and we had Elton Brand at that time who was a sophomore. He was kind of chubby so you know, I was kind of went out there and had a big game. I had about 43 points or something like that. I remember Tim Thomas had 28 points in the first half, Kevin Freeman was doing a lot of work, but Kobe Bryant had 50 points. I think it was 55. And we did EVERYTHING we could to stop him. We couldn’t stop this guy. We was talking junk to him trying to get into his head – he was supremely focused then and I will never forget that AAU game because there was so much talent, just in that game! So I go off to Villanova and play as a freshman and where Kobe Bryant is playing right around the corner so, there were a few times where I walk out of the locker room after practice and they’re playing in OUR arena! I think they were playing against Chester High School and it was the PIAA State Tournament Game and the gym was packed man!…and we couldn’t even pack the gym like that! And I’m understandin’ and watching a little bit of the game because I had to go to class or something like that it was at night, but I got a quick glimpse of what he could do. But I had already known what he could do from high school. There was a few times when he was on campus when we were recruiting him, when we were trying to get him to Villanova, he had in his mind that he was going straight to the NBA. Even though back then that was kind of crazy to think. Especially for a guard? – He went and did it man.”
Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash that took the lives of nine people, including Bryant’s daughter, Gigi on Sunday, January 26.
A winner of five NBA championships as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant retired from basketball in 2016 after a 20 year NBA career.
Currently, Bryant is now fourth on the NBA’s career scoring list after registering 33,643 points.
A two-time NBA scoring champion, Bryant’s Nos. 8 and 24 jerseys were retired by the Los Angeles Lakers organization.