The fleeing player, Robby Schwartz, “couldn’t believe he was actually running from a teammate, but he saw how serious Kobe was, so he took off,” Doug Young, an assistant coach at Lower Merion and a former teammate of Bryant’s, recalled Tuesday, laughing.
In 1995-96, his senior season at Lower Merion, in Ardmore, Pa., Bryant averaged more than 30 points, led the Aces to a state championship, broke Chamberlain’s local prep scoring record and was named the national high school player of the year. He topped it off by taking the R&B singer Brandy Norwood to his prom.
“I never saw a human being seek excellence like him,” Downer said Tuesday.
It is hard to overstate how big an attraction Bryant was in high school. He signed autographs and posed for pictures after games. Extra seating was brought in for spectators at some gyms when Lower Merion played on the road.
Later, all those who rooted for Bryant in high school and cheered against him on the Lakers were confronted with a troubling moment in his life outside basketball. In 2003, Bryant faced a sexual assault charge in Colorado. The charges were dropped after his 19-year-old accuser declined to testify. Bryant issued an apology to the woman. A settlement was later made in a civil suit she brought against him.
“It was sad,” Frank Nunan, the athletic director at rival Upper Darby High School, where Tuesday’s 33-second moment of silence took place, said of the assault case.
Asked how he reconciled Bryant the basketball star with Bryant the accused, Nunan added, “For his wife to stay with him and for him to continue on with his family, focusing on their lives, coaching his daughter, said a lot to me.”