New 12-episode Podcast Chronicles Kobe Bryant’s Lower Merion Years and Meteoric Rise

Rip Hamilton and Kobe Bryant in Ash Park in Coatesville
Image by Mark Hostutler via 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 NBA legend as a teenager that explore Bryant’s thoughts, dreams, goals, and the emergence of Bryant’s trademark “Mumba 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 LA Lakers.

Mike Sielski’s book ‘The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality,’ due out on January 11th, can be preordered 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 rediscovered 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 content 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 guard at Bartram High School and then LaSalle 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 Fairmont 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 8th grade and sensing his 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 9th 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)
  • Kobe’s scrimmages with the Sixers, which 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. It’s a bitter battle that Stackhouse still won’t talk about, 25 years later. (Episode 8)
  • Epic high school games between Kobe’s Lower Merion High School team and five-time state champions Chester High School and Coatesville High School with future NBA star Rip Hamilton. The saga ends with the team’s ascension 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.

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