By Howard Monroe


ARDMORE, Pa. (CBS) — Remembering Kobe Bryant in the place where it all started. Lower Merion High School honored the NBA legend between its girls’ game against Southern Lehigh High School and its boys’ game against Souderton High School — its first home game since last Sunday’s helicopter crash.

Emotions ran high Saturday at Kobe Bryant Gymnasium when Lower Merion paid tribute to its former Ace.

Coach Gregg Downer, the team and community members say their job now is to make sure Bryant’s legacy lives on.

“I felt like I owed it to him to come here and pay my respects,” fan Ahmad Nicholson said, “and just thank him for what he did for me.”

Hearts were heavy as the school community remembered Bryant.

“It’s just so fragile, just life. This kind of thing puts it into perspective, I think for everyone,” Nicholson said.

The team honored Bryant prior to its first home games since his death.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the seven others who were killed in last Sunday’s helicopter crash in California were honored.

But the main focus was the hometown hero, who played varsity throughout his high school career, led Lower Merion to a state championship in 1996 and was immediately drafted to the NBA.

Downer says his boys can learn a lot from Bryant.

“The message is to any kid that walks into this building, we’re going to work hard. We’re not going to accept second place and we’re not going to take any shortcuts,” Downer said.

Over 50 alumni and Bryant’s cousin took part in Saturday’s ceremony, which included a 33-second moment of silence.

“A lot of emotions, seeing people you haven’t seen in a couple of years,” alumni Noah Fennel said.

Two pieces of artwork were donated to the school and Bryant’s jersey was rededicated at the game as a reminder that before his Nos. 8 and 24 on the Los Angeles Lakers, he was Lower Merion’s No. 33.

“One thing that I loved about Kobe was his work ethic,” teacher Valerie Davis said. “I don’t think there was an athlete out there who worked like he did.”

There remains a makeshift memorial for Bryant outside of the school’s gym.

Lower Merion beat Souderton High School, 42-37, in overtime.