The late Kobe Bryant made himself one of the greatest basketball players to ever grace the hardwood throughout his legendary career. Something you probably didn’t expect was that he didn’t use to be as widely touted as he was when he retired. In fact, there were teams that were adamant in not drafting him.
When Was Kobe Bryant Drafted? Kobe Bryant was drafted in the 1996 NBA Draft, straight from High School. Kobe was chosen 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. He was immediately traded to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac. The first overall pick in the 1996 Draft was Allen Iverson to the 76ers.
It’s hard to imagine a talent like Kobe falling this far down the boards even at a young age. Who in the world could have been drafted above him at this time to push him so far down?
Players Drafted Above Kobe
There were a few guys that were understandably drafted where they were, but others that really make you just scratch your head in confusion. The most notable was Allen Iverson, who got picked first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. We all know who AI is, one of the flashiest point guards to ever play the game. Marcus Camby came right after Iverson, getting taken with the second overall pick by the Toronto Raptors. He played for seven teams and was one of the premier defensive players that the league had to offer during this stretch.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim was taken third by the Vancouver Grizzlies. Abdur-Rahim averaged 18 points per game across four teams and unfortunately suffered a lot of bad luck that really held him back from his true potential. Stephon Marbury was taken fourth by the Milwaukee Bucks, a guy that averaged 19 points per game himself. Then the great Ray Allen was drafted with the fifth pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. One of the greatest sharpshooters around for years and years. Antoine Walker was selected sixth by the Boston Celtics, another guy that had pretty solid averages throughout his career. Though this one was shocking because many thought that Kobe would go to Boston. Lorenzen Wright was at that seventh spot by the Los Angeles Clippers. This was a bit of a questionable one, as he averaged just eight points and six rebounds per game across his career. Kerry Kittle was eighth by the New Jersey Nets, another guy that got derailed by injuries and wasn’t consistent enough. Next was Samaki Walker at number nine with the Dallas Mavericks. Walker was another miss, averaged just five and four throughout his career that lasted 10 seasons with six teams. Erick Dampier was 10th by the Indiana Pacers. He had a pretty successful career by playing for 16 long seasons. The 11th pick was used on Todd Fuller for the Golden State Warriors. This was really the big miss of the first 12, averaging three points and three rebounds throughout a career that spanned five seasons and saw him land on four different teams. Then finally, Vitaly Potapenko was taken 12th by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Potapenko also didn’t end up doing much throughout his career compared to the other guys drafted. Kobe was then taken at 13th like we mentioned earlier.
Why Did Kobe Fall in the 1996 NBA Draft?
All the way back in 2011, ESPN released a story involving the former head coach of the New Jersey Nets, the team that was selected eighth in the year that Kobe was selected. That coach was named John Calipari, a guy that was completely in love with Bryant coming into this night. When asked about why he and the team opted to roll with Kittles instead of Kobe, he said that he got faked out by a planted story that Kobe and his team made up. One of those stories was that Kobe was pretty close to just going back to play basketball in Italy instead, rendering the draft pick useless. As for other teams, there were a few that Kobe simply refused to be drafted by. There have been stories that Kobe and his camp straight up told teams that he wouldn’t play for them even if they drafted him. Plus, it was pretty clear that their camp wanted to try and force their way into Los Angeles however they could. This entire strategy did in fact wind up working as they faked multiple teams out in the early picks to drop to where they wanted. There were even times that people thought he was locked into the Boston Celtics as well. Pictures surfaced before the draft showing him wearing a ton of Boston gear in workouts. Though that never wound up happening either.
Why Did Charlotte Trade The Pick Away?
The Lakers had something that the Hornets needed, a strong and reliable center named Vlade Divac. However, Divac didn’t originally want to leave the organization and the trade talks stalled because of it. Divac even went so far as to say he’d retire if traded to Charlotte. The Hornets said that they’d just keep Bryant if he fell to them and ignore the trade in light of this. Though later on, he wound up agreeing to the deal because he loved the Lakers so much. Divac went to the Hornets to give them the position they needed while Los Angeles acquired both Kobe and signed Shaquille O’Neal due to the increased cap space available to them. The Hornets didn’t even want Kobe that badly in the draft, they really just utilized him as a trade piece to get the center they wanted in the first place and fought to acquire him with a guarantee that he’d play. Who would have thought that this would be the reason Kobe didn’t spend his entire career with the Hornets or that this is why Shaq signed with LA?