Jerry West scouted Kobe Bryant and declared him as a can’t-miss prospect. But the Hornets apparently didn’t think too highly of him on NBA Draft Day 1996.
NBA Twitter abuzz with Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons rumors today. This is hardly the first time ever that draft night has proved to be an eventful day of the NBA offseason.
If you’ve followed the career of the late, great Kobe Bryant, you might know that the Lakers acquired his draft rights through a draft-night trade. Kobe was a 17-year-old at the time, and he’d be the first HS guard to ever be picked in the lottery that year.
The likes of John Calipari (current Kentucky head coach and former Nets HC) were reportedly interested in him. But Kobe had been a fan of the Lakers growing up, idolizing Magic Johnson.
He’d broken down tape of Elgin Baylor and Jerry West to work on his own game as a kid. Bryant later revealed that he was enamoured by the idea of playing at the Great Western Forum as a kid.
Bryant knew that he was going to the Lakers even on draft night. What he didn’t know was which team would be picking him, and what price they’d pay.
Did Dave Cowen really tell Kobe Bryant ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway’ on draft night
Bryant made it a point to remind fans constantly that the Hornets traded him away because ‘they didn’t want him’. This is what he said after a 108-98 defeat in North Carolina, back in 2014-15:
“Charlotte never wanted me. Hornets coach Dave Cowens told me he didn’t want me. It wasn’t a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already, a couple small forwards already. So it wasn’t like I would be off the bench much.”
Cowens disputes this version of events candidly. According to the 1973 NBA MVP, he didn’t know Bryant well enough through the draft process:
“I’d never say anything like that to a player. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. It wasn’t about him not being able to play for us. It was just [a deal] was already worked out.”