A day after announcing his retirement, Kobe Bryant arrived in Philadelphia on the eve of his last NBA game in his hometown.
The legendary Laker stopped by Larry’s Steaks on N. 54th Street off City Ave Monday night to get a bite to eat. On Tuesday Bryant and the Lakers will face the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Tuesday’s game will be a significant one for Bryant. It will be his final NBA game in his native Philadelphia. On Sunday the 37-year-old announced he would retire at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Bryant was born in Philadelphia and became a nationally-recognized star when he played for the Lower Merion High School Basketball team. He won one of his five NBA titles in Philadelphia in 2001 when the Lakers defeated the Sixers. He also won the 2002 All-Star Game MVP in Philly and was infamously booed by the crowd as he held up his trophy.
Despite his complicated relationship with Philly, his final game in the city of brotherly love has garnered plenty of excitement, especially from the young Sixers, composed of many players who grew up watching him play.
“I’m hearing it’s probably going to be sold out just because it’s Kobe’s last time playing in Philadelphia,” Sixers center Jahlil Okafor said Sunday. “That’ll be great. That’s somebody I grew up watching. He’s been around 20 seasons. That’s 20 years and I’m 19. That’s before I was even born. It’s kind of bittersweet hearing that he’s retiring. He’s one of the best all-time players, so I’m excited to play against him.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown spent the majority of Bryant’s career scheming of ways to stop him when he was working as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers, Brown said, were one of the teams he was in charge of scouting for the Spurs so he had an intimate look at Bryant’s game over the years.
“It’s an honor sort of to welcome him back to Philadelphia to begin with,” Brown said. “Kobe’s legend has lived in the city for many years and will continue to live. To play his first game back in Philly after his retirement [announcement] is a privilege for all of us.”
During a press conference, Bryant discussed his feelings towards playing his final game in Philly.
"It's gonna be beautiful," Bryant said. "So much of my game was developed in Philadelphia. Lower Merion High School with Coach Downer and playing in the Sonny Hill league with so many of the great coaches."