New Podcast Chronicles Kobe Bryant’s Lower Merion Years, Meteoric Rise from Basketball Obscurity to Legend

Image via Mark Hostutler, American Community Journals.

Lower Merion High School’s Kobe Bryant, right, and Coatesville High School’s Richard “Rip” Hamilton, shown here autographing his jersey, were fierce competitors on the basketball court and good friends off it. This picture shows the two of them at Ash Park in Coatesville in July 2006.

The new 12-episode podcast “I Am Kobe,” hosted by Philadelphia Inquirer journalist and author Mike Sielski, chronicles the early years of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, including his time at Lower Merion High School through his first year for the Los Angeles Lakers, writes Shawn Grant for The Source.

The 12-episode series reveals never-before-heard tapes of the basketball legend as a teenager that explore Bryant’s thoughts, dreams, goals, and the emergence of his trademark “Mamba Mentality” persona.

Some tapes are from his freshman through senior years in high school, while others cover the weeks after he graduated high school and his first season with the Lakers.

Mike Sielski’s book “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality,” due out Jan. 11, can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

The tapes were recorded between 1995-1996 when Bryant set with a family friend, Jeremy Treatman, to record interviews about his life to write a book together.

The tapes were lost, only to be discovered nearly three decades later. Treatman then connected with Sielski to help bring them to life in a podcast and soon-to-be-released book.

The podcast blends these intimate audiotapes with interviews from those who were close to the Black Mamba, including his coaches, friends, family, and opponents.

Highlights of the nine already released episodes include:

  • In Episode 3, Sielski looks back at Joe Bryant, Kobe’s father, and an All-City 6-foot-9 forward at Bartram High School and then La Salle College. Joe Bryant’s never-before-seen creative and flashy play carried him to the NBA and an off-the-bench role with the 76ers. Bryant’s NBA career all but ended when he was arrested for drug possession, reckless driving, and two counts of resisting arrest in Fairmount Park.
  • How it took Kobe (and his family) months to adjust to Main Line life and fashion when Joe Brant’s playing career in Italy ended. (Episode 4)
  • Having seen Kobe play in eighth grade and sensing Bryant’s extraordinary talent and potential, Lower Merion High School coach Gregg Downer created a four-person staff of assistant coaches for the sole purpose of coaching Kobe Bryant. (Episode 5)
  • How Kobe told a couple of his friends in ninth grade that he intended to skip college and go right to the NBA after high school. (Episode 6)
  • How La Salle University’s men’s basketball coach, Speedy Morris, hired Kobe’s dad, Joe, to coach the school’s freshman team in the hopes of getting an inside track on recruiting Kobe, who by then was the top high school player in the country, and how Joe and Kobe essentially strung coach Morris along. (Episode 7)
  • Sielski describes how Kobe scrimmaged with the Sixers led to an epic one-on-one battle between the rising high school phenom and Jerry Stackhouse, the Sixers’ top draft choice the year before, a bitter battle of that Stackhouse still won’t talk about today, 25 years later. (Episode 8)
  • Epic high school games between Kobe’s Lower Merion High School team and five-time state champion Chester High School and Coatesville High School with future NBA star Rip Hamilton, and then finally becoming state champions in 1996. (Episode 9 and 10)

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to present this rare inside look into Kobe Bryant’s formative years and tell his story through these never-before-heard tapes,” said Sielski.

Read more about the “I Am Kobe” podcast in The Source.

You can pre-order Mike Sielski’s The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality, due out Jan. 11, here.

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