LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) — Kobe Bryant’s loss was felt deeply at Lower Merion High School on Sunday night, where a memorial for the hometown hero is growing by the minute. Late Sunday night, a memorial was ever-growing for Bryant outside of the Lower Merion High School gym that bears his name.
Tears were shed for a man revered for his love of sport, passion in the game and a generous spirit.
“I came here as soon as I could to pay my final respects to Kobe Bryant,” fan Yonnas Getachew said.
These are the tributes, written on ordinary “thank you” notes, remembering Lower Merion’s Kobe Bryant tonight. “The way you lived, played, worked was as Philly as it gets.” @CBSPhilly pic.twitter.com/WnAPUwlIBX
— Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) January 27, 2020
A steady crowd dropped off flowers and left small tokens symbolic of one of the greatest in the game.
Bryant started at Lower Merion High School in 1992 and by 1996, the spotlight had found him after leading coach Gregg Downer to capture the state championship.
Of those stopping by to pay respects and share stories, there are personal connections.
Ellen Schwartz’s husband was, at times, a chef for Bryant in Los Angeles.
“Kobe was just the kindest person you could meet,” Schwartz said. “It doesn’t matter if you were the star in the room or the waitress in the room. He just treated everyone with kindness.”
The news of Bryant and his daughter’s death — along with seven others — sent shockwaves through Philadelphia’s Main Line.
“We are all shocked. It’s really sad,” Zara Davis said.
Before long, people started showing up mid-Sunday afternoon.
“He’s done some amazing things for this school and district. It’s just really sad stuff,” Will Pitonyak said.
A basketball game had just wrapped up when word hit. The high school student-athletes wearing Sixers and Lakers T-shirts were still relishing in Sunday night’s prime time matchup.
“He was just that big, man. Everyone looked up to him,” Sam Hecht said.
Officially, the Lower Merion School District will pay tribute at some point, recognizing the staggering loss.
— Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) January 26, 2020
“The entire Lower Merion School District community sends its deepest condolences to the entire Bryant family. Our basketball teams will no doubt pay tribute to Mr. Bryant as the season continues,” district spokesperson Amy Buckman said. “But as this time as a district, we will concentrate on supporting those in our community, including Coach Downer and English teacher Jeanne Mastriano, who Mr. Bryant credited for sparking his love for writing.”
Also remembering Bryant on Sunday was those at Larry’s Steaks in nearby Wynnefield, a must on Bryant’s list of stops when he was back home.
“He would always call us and say, ‘I’m coming today’ to Larry. ‘I need to visit my place, I miss a cheesesteak.’ He always loved our steak. Once he came here, a lot of people would come. He was a friendly guy, he was so kind,” Larry’s Steaks manager Moataz Ebid said.
Meanwhile back at the high school, Alex Yiantsos, of Mullica Hill, read from his handwritten thank you note, says the greatest Laker of all time will always be a Philly guy at heart.
“Despite the fact that you beat my beloved 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals, the way you played, the way you lived and the way you worked was as Philly as it gets,” Yiantsos said. “100% tough, 100% amazing.”
The stories are deeply personable for a loss that is immeasurable.