Last night I saw a snippet of an E:60 story on why Philly hates Kobe. They were saying it's because he didn't play for the Sixers or because he left the city for Los Angeles. With all due respect, Sonny Hill, I don't believe the glitz and glamor of L.A. has anything to do with it. Here's my take:
First off, Kobe isn't even from Philadelphia. He's from the Main Line, an affluent suburban area due west of the city. Specifically, he went to Lower Merion High School, which lays in a predominantly white neighborhood. Sure it's no prep or Catholic school that may tend to recruit, but it's one of the wealthier public schools you'll see.
On top of that, he lived in Italy for a few years before moving back to the Philadelphia area. The son of Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, a pro basketball player (and former Sixer), one could say Kobe didn't exactly come from the hood. And one would be right. Kobe was a cultured kid, fluent in Italian. Definitely not your typical city kid, let alone suburban one.
So there's that. One might demand, name me a high school star that Philly DOES love. Here are three that Philly definitely has welcomed home with a standing "O" and a warm embrace.
1. Rasheed Wallace
'Sheed went to Simon Gratz, a city school, for one. Sure, he left the area for North Carolina when he graduated and then went on to the NBA and played for a few teams that weren't the Sixers. And, sure, he's currently on the Celtics. Well, Philly doesn't have a problem with 'Sheed. He's a Philly kid. Not much argument here. Do we absolutely drool over this guy when he returns? No. But we do show respect, because he grew up here.
2. Bo Kimble
Bo went out to California with Hank Gathers (R.I.P.) for college. But Bo was from Dobbins Tech, a city school. The team came back to the area to play the likes of St. Joe's and LaSalle. People came out in droves to see Kimble (and Gathers and Paul Westhead, a Cheltenham guy) when he came back to play. He went on to the NBA and played for the Clippers. But, again, he was a Philly kid. Philly embraced him upon his return.
3. Jameer Nelson
Classic example of a kid staying in the area for college. Jameer was a Chester kid, a blue collar city just south of Philly, but may as well be included when you talk about Philadelphia. Even more, he went to St. Joe's, so people loved him even more. Hard to argue with Jameer being loved by Philly.
These might be unfair comparisons, but they're ones that need to be made. But there's more. Kobe didn't even go to college, so considering staying in Philly for school never crossed his mind in the eyes of Philly fans. On top of that, Kobe had a swagger about him. He was good, but didn't fully let his game do the talking. He dominated the suburban leagues, and I'm sure he did some damage against some city schools that were scheduled out-of-conference. But at the end of the day, Kobe went home to his mansion in the 'burbs, not the streets of Philadelphia.
Leaving for the NBA was a case of the rich getting richer. No rags in this story. How can Philly fans relate to that? Very few can.
When Kobe is interviewed about Philadelphia, his "hometown", it seems Kobe still doesn't get it. He says - per the E:60 story - and I'm paraphrasing here - that he gets his personality from this city. Sure, he probably hung out in the city and even played in some city summer leagues and on the playgrounds there. To his credit, he gained the respect from other Philly basketball players. But we're not talking about the few talented kids that come out of this area. We're talking about the fans of the entire area. His personality comes from a loving, functional family that never had to struggle like many families do in the city or surrounding, less affluent areas. Again, at the end of the day, Kobe wasn't hustling or worrying about much.
Not all of the Philly area hates Kobe. Just walk into the Pub of Penn Valley in Lower Merion Township and you'll find a sweet Nike Lower Merion Kobe jersey framed on the wall. They're proud to call him their own in Lower Merion. I doubt you'll see many framed jerseys in North or South Philly bars. I challenge you to find them for me.
This is why Philly hates Kobe. And barring a return to Philly to play for the Sixers - and leading them to a championship, too! - I'm not sure there was ever a chance all of Philly would have truly been on his side.