S1E3: A Young Man in Lower Merion
I Am Kobe · 35 minutes ·

S1E3: A Young Man in Lower Merion

Kobe Bryant wasn’t quite flashing The Mamba Mentality yet. He was 13 years old and he was jumping into the middle of the school year at Bala Cynwyd Middle School. Then after a few more months, boom, he was heading to Lower Merion, a public high school in the suburbs just outside Philadelphia, a school where about 10 percent of the students were Black.

Pre-order Mike Sielski's related book: “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality" (1/11/22): TheRiseOfKobeBook.com

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Our theme music is “Create Yourself” by Grover Braam feat. Justin Starling: Listen to Create Yourself on Spotify

Joe Bryant got a job at Akiba Hebrew Academy, a Jewish day school on the Main Line. You might have heard of Akiba, or at least some of its alumni. Jake Tapper, from CNN, went there, and so did the best-selling author and media personality Mitch Albom.

Joe Bryant was the girls basketball coach there, but it wasn’t like Akiba’s players were all ticketed to play for UConn or Baylor someday. These girls were just learning the game, trying to master its fundamentals, and Joe was happy to teach them that and a few other things. He’d have the players practice dribbling behind their backs and between their legs, stuff that to him was just fun. That’s kind of what the job was to Joe: just fun. He’d even bring Kobe to practice from time to time, and it was there where both Joe and Kobe Bryant met Jeremy Treatman, the man who would become their friend and confidant, for the first time.

It’s a rare thing to have a genuine epiphany, to be able to pinpoint the instant when you know you’ve uncovered something or come across someone who will be famous or special in some way. There’s a story about a man named Jon Landau, who was a music critic and became an influential record producer. In 1974, Landau went to a concert for an up-and-coming band at the Harvard Square Theater in Massachusetts, Afterward, he wrote this, "I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Well, Jeremy Treatman had just had his Bruce Springsteen moment. He saw the future of basketball, and its name was Kobe Bryant.

Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK

“I Am Kobe” is a production of Diversion Podcasts in association with iHeartRadio. This season is written and hosted by Mike Sielski. Produced by Jacob Bronstein and directed by Mark Francis. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. Production Assistant: Stephen Tompkins. Music Supervisor: Scott Velasquez for Frisson Sync. Executive Producers: Mark Francis and Scott Waxman. 

Thanks to Oren Rosenbaum, Susan Canavan, and Jeremy Treatman.

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