By: Matt Gabalawi
Aces Nation welcomed the return of hometown hero and NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, who led a clinic for area youth on Friday, July 7 at Lower Merion HS. More than 100 high school-age basketball players greeted Kobe with thunderous applause as he entered the gym.
Bryant, who made waves with a dazzling eighty-one-point performance on January 22 against the Toronto Raptors, returned to his alma mater to infuse his principles and knowledge of the game into the hearts, minds and souls of clinic attendees.
The session consisted of stretches, ball handling exercises, shooting analysis, defensive drills, film review and many other activities. Kobe's objective was to educate the day's participants about what he called the "subtleties of the game," which were more conceptual than a series of movements.
"By me giving it to them at this stage, it gives them a leg up," remarked Bryant, who spent more than four hours providing hands-on instruction and demonstrations.
Also in attendance were Philadelphia 76ers forward Andre Iguodala, 2006 state champions and recent LM graduates Ryan Brooks, Ernest Moore and Garrett Williamson and LM head basketball coach Gregg Downer, among others.
For Brooks, it was a particularly unique learning experience, "Anything that he says, you try to digest that. Doing what he did taught me, and what he showed me - I try to put that on the court and make it a weapon in my game as well."
"It's great that Kobe is in touch and giving back to the community", commented Williamson.
Kobe's visit meant a lot to many of the Aces' current players, who also had an opportunity to work out with Bryant during a private team session earlier in the week.
"This is a serious event, not a publicity stunt," affirmed LM's new athletic director, Scott Eveslage. "Any time there is a person of that caliber willing to give back to the community, it is going to be beneficial."
Following the event, Kobe answered questions and signed autographs. He spent nearly five days in the area, making returns to some favorite stops from his school days, including the JCC Kaiserman in Wynnewood, Bella Italia Pizzeria in Ardmore and Larry's Steaks in West Philadelphia. The trip marked Bryant's 3rd visit to Lower Merion this year. He regularly connects with the Aces during the season as well and was a big supporter during the team's 2006 championship run.