Kobe Bryant's Pennsylvania High School Honors Him With the Return of His Stolen Jersey

The seats where NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant sat on the last game they attended at the Staples Center are pictured covered with roses in their honor, after they were killed in a helicopter accident ahead of a game. Photograph taken on January 31, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/Getty

The late basketball star Kobe Bryant's high school in Pennsylvania honored him with a ceremony on Saturday that included the unveiling of his jersey, which was returned after having been stolen in 2017.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and several other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 26. Since then, the world of sports and the country at large has seen a huge outpouring of support for honoring the life of the Los Angeles Lakers player, including a petition for his likeness to become the new logo for the NBA.

Bryant was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the local Lower Merion High School, located in Ardmore, in 1996. According to the Associated Press, the ceremony honoring him on Saturday was held in the school's gym, which was filled with people "to at least [its] 1,600 capacity." The ceremony took place before the school's first home basketball game and included speeches from school administrators.

"Because of Kobe, Lower Merion High School is known all over the globe," principal Sean Hughes told attendees. "Despite his international fame, Kobe kept very close to our hearts. He returned here to meet with beloved (English teachers), and of course, coach Downer. He helped make this gym the wonderful facility it is. He was a strong supporter, not only of our basketball teams, but all of Aces Nation."

When Bryant played for Lower Marion's basketball team, his jersey was No. 33. In 2017 someone stole the jersey from the high school, and was eventually purchased by a collector in China, AP reported. The collector had suspicions that the jersey was stolen and was already in the process of returning it to Lower Marion when Bryant died.

"Good timing," said Gregg Downer, a coach at the high school. "That was kind of an iconic moment when the spotlight went on that jersey. It was just tremendous. It was major irony, almost, how we've been waiting for that jersey for a long time. For a long time we didn't know where it was. To have it back, it's a fitting ending to a tough week."

On Twitter, ESPN shared a video of Bryant's cousin unveiling the returned jersey.

"In Lower Merion's first home game since Kobe's death, Bryant's cousin unveiled his HS jersey, which was stolen in 2017 and bought by a collector in China but finally returned on Saturday," the tweet read. "Merion ended up winning the game in overtime."

In Lower Merion’s first home game since Kobe’s death, Bryant’s cousin unveiled his HS jersey, which was stolen in 2017 and bought by a collector in China but finally returned on Saturday.

Merion ended up winning the game in overtime.

(via aidanfriedman_/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/gFjMBxLOs6

— ESPN (@espn) February 2, 2020