- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's always a special occasion for Kobe Bryant when the Los Angeles Lakers make their annual road trip to play the Philadelphia 76ers and he has a chance to visit his alma mater, Lower Merion High School.
This year, a part of Bryant will stay at the school even after the Lakers leave town and continue on their season.
Lower Merion will dedicate the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium with a ceremony on Dec. 16, the day before the Lakers play the Sixers.
"It's cool for me," Bryant said. "That's obviously where playing in the NBA kind of became a realistic goal. I put a lot of work in, a lot of hours in that gym, with a lot of people that support me and still support me to this day. It will be cool to go back there."
Despite graduating in 1996, Bryant still maintains a presence at the school.
"He's stayed connected and been incredibly generous with not only his resources, but his time and this is a way for our community to say thanks and provide a special moment to mark the dedication," Lower Merion School District spokesman Doug Young said.
The gym naming has been a long time coming. Lower Merion opened up its new high school building this fall after six years of planning and construction.
"There were a lot of great memories from that old gym, but it's a new space and it's only appropriate and fitting to name it after the most distinguished athletic alumnus from the school, but someone who has also been a real good example of staying connected with your alma mater and continuing to give back," Young said.
Bryant still calls his high school coach Gregg Downer when the boy's basketball team makes the playoffs and Downer puts his cell phone on speaker for Bryant to give the Aces a pep talk. He also makes regular trips to the high school in the offseason to show the current team his workout techniques and to say hello to old friends.
"I talk to them all the time," Bryant said. "I spoke to my English teach [Jeanne Mastriano] quite a bit during the NBA Finals last year. That relationship will always be there."
The event will feature musical entertainment, sports personalities and other "very special guests" whose names have not been released. All proceeds from tickets and sponsorships of the event are to go to the Education Foundation of Lower Merion.
"It will have a very grass-roots feel to it," Young said.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.