Kobe Bryant had several teams regretting their pick in the 1996 draft, notably the Charlotte Hornets who traded him away, but also the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bryant was a special prospect coming into the draft. Unlike many others in the class, he wasn’t coming in from college but instead directly from high school. Yeah, that’s how good he was.
Kobe went to Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania where he became something resembling a legend to the school. He took the team from being a bottom feeder (finished 4-20 the year Kobe made the varsity team as a freshman) to one of the best schools in the nation.
In 1995, Kobe Bryant had his own flu game playing for Lower Merion High School.
Kobe wore multiple layers of clothing to keep himself warm and was throwing up in a paper bag.
The Mamba still dominated 💪
(via IG/rumpelstiltsky) pic.twitter.com/N7cfcoePWz
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) May 22, 2020
Los Angeles Clippers Chose To Pass On Kobe Bryant Due To His Age As The Lakers Legend Revealed To Jimmy Kimmel
In his last year, Kobe Bryant became known as the best player in high school in the country as he led Lower Merion to a state title. His heroics had several people pegging him to be one of the earlier picks in the NBA draft, but he would eventually fall to 13 to the Hornets who traded him to the Lakers. The rest is history.
However, the other Los Angeles team could have very well have had him as they picked at number seven. Their reason for turning down Kobe will have you shaking your head.
Kobe Bryant appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show, and he opened up about why the Clippers chose to pass on him. According to Kobe:
“They said ‘We want to turn things around with our organization. We felt like if we drafted a 17 year old kid, then the city of Los Angeles wouldn’t take us seriously'”
Well, Los Angeles has definitely seemed to take Kobe seriously as if you think of the Lakers, you instantly think of Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba lives on as a storied part of the history of the Purple and Gold, but imagine how different NBA history could have been if the Clippers drafted Kobe instead.
Maybe, Kobe could have ended their streak of being a historically bad and unlucky franchise, or perhaps Kobe would never become the player we know him to be today as he wouldn’t have developed so well without someone like Shaquille O’Neal on his team.
These are all just hypotheticals, but it’s fun to imagine what could have been if the Clippers didn’t hesitate with Kobe’s age. In theory, their reasoning makes sense. Picking a high school player over an established college prospect is much riskier, but the Clippers definitely have to have regretted letting this chance slip.
If you’re wondering who the Clippers picked, they took Lorenzen Wright, who was unfortunately murdered a little later in his career.
You can watch the full interview with Jimmy Kimmel here, and the part about the Clippers passing on him comes at around the 19:58 mark.