Kobe Bryant made sure a good deed did not go unnoticed.
While on a recent trip to China to promote the draw for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, one of Bryant’s associates reached out to Liu Zhe, the 28-year-old superfan who recovered Bryant’s stolen Lower Merion High School jersey and returned it to the school. Bryant wanted to show his gratitude for Liu’s generosity with a face-to-face meeting before the former Los Angeles Lakers star returned to the United States.
Liu, a native of Harbin, China, purchased the jersey from an online seller for approximately $2,000 in October 2018, nearly two years after it was stolen from a display case at Bryant’s high school in February 2017.
After realizing the No. 33 uniform matched the one that was missing, Liu connected with a representative for Lower Merion’s basketball team through its Instagram account and agreed to mail the uniform back to the school in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He asked for nothing in return, other than hoping that Bryant would hear the story about how the jersey was recovered.
Bryant met with Liu last weekend following a launch event in Shenzhen, China, for Bryant’s new children’s book, “The Wizenard Series: Training Camp.” Liu already had met Bryant a handful of times when the five-time champion had made promotional appearances in both China and the United States, but this time around was extra special.
“I asked Kobe, ‘Do you remember me?'” Liu told ESPN. “He told me, ‘Yes, thank you for returning the jersey. You did a great thing.'”
Liu used the opportunity to give Bryant a letter he wrote for him, detailing what the two-time NBA Finals MVP means to him.
“Thank you, Kobe,” the letter concluded. “Thank you for 20 years company. Mamba never out!”
Bryant autographed a poster-size photo of him and Liu, taken when Liu was a participant at Bryant’s basketball camp in Los Angeles in 2018. He included the inscription, “Do epic things!”
The Lower Merion Police Department’s investigation into the 2017 theft is ongoing in hopes of recovering the rest of the stolen items taken from the school — including the 1996 PIAA Boys’ Basketball 4A State Championship trophy and five pairs of Bryant’s signature Nike sneakers — and bringing the two unidentified thieves caught on security video that night to justice.
The LMPD said it has received additional information from Liu about the online seller that he purchased the jersey from.
“The Lower Merion School District is appreciative that the fan in China did the right thing and returned the Kobe Bryant jersey to Lower Merion High School,” the school district said in a statement. “We remain hopeful that the other stolen items will be returned as well and appreciate the continued work of the Lower Merion Township police to recover the items.”