PHILADELPHIA -- Kobe Bryant has spent 20 seasons in purple and gold, but before embarking on a Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he envisioned himself playing for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers.
"When I was in high school, I hoped to be a Sixer," Bryant said before his team's 103-91 loss to the 76ers on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center. "I was always hoping that. But at the time, [Allen] Iverson was such a, such a force ... but it was always a dream of mine to play in Philadelphia.
"But once that didn't happen, my childhood ambitions of being a Los Angeles Laker was actual reality -- this can actually happen. Once I became a Laker, I was never going to look back. But in high school, I was like, 'Philadelphia is struggling. There's a chance I could play for the Sixers.' But it never happened, so I had to settle for my childhood dream, which was to be a Laker."
Bryant's father, Joe Bryant, played for the 76ers, and Kobe Bryant attended Lower Merion High School in suburban Philadelphia. One of his five NBA championships came against the Sixers in 2001.
Bryant had a message for the Philly fans ahead of his final NBA game in the city: "Thank you for everything. It's such a beautiful thing. I was just driving around last night, going to all the parks I used to play in, just driving by them. You see so many familiar faces, and you just kind of think about how fast time went. I'm very appreciative and very thankful for everyone -- those who supported, those who didn't. It was all just part of the entire journey."
Bryant also spoke of his longtime hometown rituals, which, not surprisingly, feature two of Philadelphia's iconic foods.
"Soft pretzels. Every time I come here, there are fresh pretzels sitting at the top of my locker," Bryant said. "It's been every year. Every year, since I came into the NBA. Fresh pretzels, little side of mustard, and I'll always have my Larry's cheesesteaks waiting for me after the game. That's been a ritual since I've been coming here."