A tall, skinny kid with a ball, a dream and an unparalleled work ethic showed up to the gym every day at 5:30 AM. The custodian unlocked the door and turned on the lights. The kid did his thing.
He swished thousands of shots. He ran sprints at full speed with no one watching. He pounded the rock until his fingertips bled. He left the Main Gym drenched in sweat, showered, changed and headed to class. Quiet, driven, focused on a goal that no one – not even his closest friends -- could truly comprehend. Four years later he walked out the door as a state champ and an NBA lottery pick. More importantly, he left as someone we wanted to cheer for on the court and in life.
"A 6'6' guard from Lower Merion High School..." The words bring chills every time we hear them announced. They remind us of where he came from, of the heights he has reached and the lives he has touched. NBA titles, Olympic gold, millions of fans, a global brand. And though his name, number and hometown won't again be called into the starting lineup, his legacy around the world -- and especially in Lower Merion -- is forever.
Twenty years ago almost to the day he boarded a fire engine and led a championship parade down Montgomery Avenue. Thousands lined the streets for an incredible, improbable celebration of a team and a title that brought a community together and inspired dreams in those who would follow in his enormous footsteps. Dreams of more parades, of more trips to Hershey, of playing this beautiful game -- and doing it the right way. His hard work laid the foundation and set the expectation for success that has continued to this day.
Kobe Bryant has lived the Lower Merion School District motto of "Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve." He has never forgotten his roots. He has been generous with his time, resources and love. How many kids come back and give back to their high school alma maters, year after year, for decades? Kobe has traveled the world inspiring others, bridging cultural divides, serving as a global ambassador of his sport and his country. And yet, he always finds time -- however fleeting -- to come home.
The gym is open. The door is unlocked. The dream begins anew.
Thank you, Kobe -- and congratulations. We look forward to the next chapter.