Kobe Bryant: Big City Star & Small Town MVP

Kobe Bryant and his Dad, Joe Bryant

People all over the world are sharing their stories about Kobe Bryant and the impact he made on their lives. He reached so many people on a personal level and many of us find ourselves surprised at the depth of emotion that his tragic death stirs in us. When news of his passing reached us, we searched through our archives to see if we perhaps had any stories about Kobe that might not hit the mainstream radar. We found a couple.

Donofrio Championship, 1995

The year before Kobe made his NBA debut, he competed in the Donofrio basketball tournament in Conshohocken, a suburb of Philadelphia. Before you ask…yes, they won the tournament. And yes, Kobe was named MVP, an accolade he shared with teammate Donnie Carr, now an assistant coach at La Salle. (Donnie shared some of his own memories of Kobe recently with The Philadelphia Enquirer that you can read here.). Images below come from the book Conshohocken & West Conshohocken Sports from Arcadia Publishing.

Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, on the left, poses with his son Kobe at the Donofrio Championship Conoshohocken, PA in 1996.
Kobe and the Sonny Hill Juniors
Kobe, No 21 in front left, poses with the rest of the Sonny Hill Juniors after winning the 1995 tournament.

Kobe & The Beach Ball Classic

We found more info on Kobe in Ian Guernin’s book, The Beach Ball Classic, an annual tournament in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. According to Beach Ball Classic officials, Bryant dominated the 1995 tournament, scoring 45 points in two of the three tournament games in which he played. While his team, Lower Merion High School, didn’t win the tournament that year, Kobe did end up taking home honors in the Slam Dunk Contest.

Lester Earl & Kobe Bryant at the 1995 Beach Ball Classic
Lester Earl (left) and Kobe Bryant split the Slam Dunk Contest top honors in 1995, when the two were among a jam-packed field of individual talent. Photo courtesy of BBC archives.

Mamba Forever

Kobe Bryant may have played his entire career among the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles, but it’s small towns across the world where he arguably had his greatest impact, inspiring a generation of youngsters to believe in themselves and find their own mamba mentality.