Philadelphia may be Eagles land, but there's always room for a Black Mamba.
Kobe Bryant, the retired Lakers superstar, future NBA Hall of Famer and Philadelphia native, came back home to surprise students at a middle school in his hometown. Bryant met with students at the Andrew Hamilton School in West Philly to discuss his new novel, "The Wizenard Series: Training Camp."
Ten student athletes from the school and the Philadelphia Youth Basketball Middle School Program joined Bryant for a round-table discussion about the themes in the novel. Later, Bryant surprised more than 200 middle school students and discussed the role of mentors with his former English teacher and high school coach.
"Do not be afraid to dream. It's OK to have really big dreams, and you go after them," Bryant told the students. "Somebody in the world has to do it."
Bryant also discussed his pride at being from Philadelphia and his desire to heighten the city's profile, saying that it produces not just great basketball players, but great well-rounded people.
"It's good to be back, but it'll be great to get Philadelphia back on the map the way it should be," he said.
Bryant's book centers around a "struggling inner-city basketball team, whose luck turns around when they meet their new, mysterious and magical coach who teaches them the importance of empathy, teamwork and mentorship," according to a media release. The novel was conceived by Bryant and authored by Wesley King.
Since retiring from professional basketball, the Black Mamba has branched out and can now list "Academy Award winner" on his résumé after taking home an Oscar in 2018 for his animated short film "Dear Basketball."