Watch 17-year-old Kobe Bryant cook in the 1996 McDonald’s All-American game

Kobe Bryant photographed on court at Lower Merion High SchoolKobe Prep Boysfront 08 S Bko Usa Pa
Kobe Bryant photographed on court at Lower Merion High SchoolKobe Prep Boysfront 08 S Bko Usa Pa /

Want to see Kobe Bryant going off before he became the Black Mamba. Watch him show up other future stars in the 1996 McDonald’s All-American Game.

Scouting high school basketball prospects is a messy and imprecise science. But some players you just see and know they’re destined for greatness. Like LeBron James, a man among boys for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, OH, or Kobe Bryant averaging 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.8 blocks and 2.3 steals per game for Lower Merion High School.

Bryant was named Pennsylvania’ Player of the Year as a senior, turning down offers from Duke, Michigan, North Carolina and Villanova before opting to head straight to the NBA. There isn’t a lot of high school game film available from that era but if you want to see Kobe Bryant before he became KOBE BRYANT, check out his performance in the 1996 McDonald’s High School All-American Game, the full broadcast of which is available on YouTube.

Even among the best high schoolers in the country, Kobe Bryant stood out

Bryant wore No. 33, the number he wore at Lower Merion High School, and it’s more than a little bit weird to see him in something other than Lakers’ colors. Bryant finished the game with 13 points, including a to-the-rafters hammer dunk in transition early in the first quarter. He’s nowhere near the precise, polished scorer he’d eventually become but you can already see his swagger, confidence and athleticism shine through.

The game’s roster featured several future NBA players including Tim Thomas, Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson, Rip Hamilton and Mike Bibby. O’Neal joined Bryant in declaring for the NBA Draft and was taken with the No. 17 pick by the Portland Trail Blazers. Bryant was famously taken No. 13 by the Charlotte Hornets and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac in a draft-night trade.