Fact vs. Fiction Vol. I: The True Story of How Kobe Became...

Fact vs. Fiction Vol. I: The True Story of How Kobe Became A Laker



This is the first installment in an ongoing series of stories that will attempt to separate the truth from fiction.

When a franchise achieves as much success as the Lakers have over the past 40 years, it’s almost assumed that critics and envious fan bases will try to tear them down. Since they don’t have the ability to erase those accomplishments from the history books, they instead try to either distort or discredit them. These are the same people who believe that anything good that happens to the Lakers is the result of cheating, but never investigate the possibility of anything fishy going on when they lose.

Their newest strategy is what I like to call “Preemptive Delegitimization.” These are the guys who have already declared the Lakers the winners of the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery. You can’t help but be impressed. If the Lakers do win the lottery, they’ll say it was fixed. If they get the second pick, they’ll say it’s because the NBA knew it would look too fishy to give them the first pick. If the player the Lakers draft ends up leading them to a championship, then it will be because Adam Silver rigged it for them. If the Lakers end up getting a pick that’s worse than where they would have picked if the draft was based on won-loss records, you won’t hear a single peep.

Lakers Nation Store Is Back! Check Out The Latest Gear!

Conspiracy theories are nothing new in sports. With each major scandal, whether it’s Pete Rose, Tim Donaghy, Connie Hawkins, or Paul Hornung, the shadow of doubt has gotten wider. In cases where human error is involved, it is now commonplace to question whether or not the mistake was really unintentional or if there’s something more clandestine behind it. In the cases where Goliath beats David, the popular thing to do now is to repeat the conspiracy theory over and over until it sheds the conspiracy tag altogether and becomes an outright fact.

Perhaps nothing has helped to fuel this habit more than the Internet. We’ve never had more tools at our disposal for rewriting history. With just a few clicks, anyone can find a stat to help support whichever point he or she is trying to make. Even the least tech-savvy among us, with just minimal editing skill, can put together a YouTube video that would make Leni Riefenstahl envious.

I was reminded of this the other day when one of the most often repeated conspiracy theories of the past 20 years came across my Twitter feed. Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com tweeted out a story by his collegue Jabari Davis about Australian NBA hopeful Dante Exum:

It’s important that I mention that Jabari has no agenda. Not only is he from Los Angeles but at one-time was a contributor to this very site. If you were to read his story, you’d see that Jabari does use words like “rumor” and “paralleling stories” when discussing the events surrounding how Kobe ended up on the Lakers. But that’s very different than what the headline of the story implies. The headline states it as fact, further giving both life and legitimacy to a rumor. Just look at one of the first replies Kennedy received to his tweet:

What really happened and what’s reported to have happened are distinctly different. Looking back on how we got here could serve as an excellent case study in how rumors evolve into facts in the digital age. Those who are fans of Kobe would tell you that the rumor is 100 percent false. Those who despise either Kobe or the Lakers will tell you that Kobe, his dad, and his agent basically threw on ski masks, locked the doors to the Continental Airlines Arena, and pointed their guns at the heads of the 29 GMs to ensure that Kobe would be a Laker.

As is the case with most legends, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Next Page: Continue Reading: Fact vs. Fiction Vol. 1: The True Story Of How Kobe Became A Laker


    Who cares what the haters think? Like this article said, they are just jealous of the greatest franchise in the sport (Boston may have 1 more title, but let’s count the rings without including the 60s).

  • Timmy Chong

    retaraded, nobody wanted to draft kobe because hes was coming straight out of highschool. they didnt want to take a risk on a kid, especially with the GMs thinking he isnt gonna be fundamentally sound since he didnt go to college (pretty ironic, seeing as almost all the players are coming from the NCAA and most lack fundamentals)

    kobe was 13th in a very deep (probably the deepest) draft class in history. theres no “conspiracy behind it”

    • They call me Pringles

      Dude, the NBA has been drafting high school ballers way before Kobe. Charlotte Hornets back in ’96 was nowhere in Playoff discussion, of course they would have loved to keep Kobe as their future.

      The NBA has been drafting high school players since 1962. Remember Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Garnett, yes Kobe and Jermaine O’neal. Out of all the high school players the NBA has drafted in history, only Kwame Brown was a bust. No why would you think a aeging team like Charlotte would not keep a high potential young star like Kobe on their team?

      I remember prior to the draft in ’96, Kobe’s agent cancelled a pre-draft workout with numerous teams other than the Lakers and Celtics.

      Remember, Ricky Rubio tried to do the same thing until he figured out Minnesotta wasn’t going to bluff.

      • kobe24

        Actually in Ricky Rubio’s case he was hoping to go to the Clippers, Kings or (Thunder I believe) and he tried to change it so that he would go to one of the 3 organizations however they all passed up on him and therefore he went to minny

        In Dante’s case its sort of different.

      • Daryl Peek

        Not one NBA team was taking high school kids in 1962. The Pistons tried in 62 with Reggie Harding but could not get past the one year after his high school class graduated NBA rule. The ABA had been accepting high school graduates and Harding joined the ABA for a season before he could get redrafted by the Pistons again in 63.

        In 1971 Spencer Haywood and the owner of the Supersonic’s paved the way for high school players to get into the NBA when they sued the league for the old NBA requirement that a player may not be drafted by a NBA team unless he waited four years. Haywood actually joined the NBA earlier than the four year requirement in 1970 after a year in the ABA just like Harding. The case went all the way to the Supreme court before the NBA agreed to a settlement.

        Some of the guys you named were not straight from high school. Moses Malone jumped to the ABA first (in 74) just like Haywood had done. Moses got to the NBA via the merger of the two leagues in 76. Darryl Dwakins and Bill Willoughby were actually the first to take advantage of the hardship rule Haywood paved in becoming the first true high school graduates to be drafted jumping straight to the NBA in 1975. After Dawkins and Willoughby, no high schoolers were drafted for twenty years as the NBA no longer had the AbA to compete with for young talent, and still frowned on players not going to college. Especially given the climate of the NBA in the 70’s, as the league was losing money and seen as an all black thug league. Fights were common place back then KAJ got into fights all the time and Kermit Washington smashing on Rudy T. was the height of the thuggery as it was graphically seen.

        Kemp like Harding, Haywood and Malone enrolled in college but did not play and sat out a year before being drafted by the Supersonics. KG was next to Make the jump in 95 but it was controversial. In 96 there was Kobe. The jump was still frowned upon at the time and that’s why there was such a big stink when Kobe announced the original Decision. LeBron copied Kobe’s press conference in saying he’s gonna take his talents to Miami.

        Kobe was hated on by people in his hometown of Philly over the Decision. KG didn’t get that due to not being as big of a high school phenom with all the media coverage. Kobe fell to #13 due to the hate and stubbornness of those who still frowned on the jump. Kobe caught pure hell those first two seasons with the Lakers and much of the public IRE and jealousy of coaches, GM’s, pundits and players was fueled from the hype of the Decision, it was what also started the Kobe Shaq beef. “I’m not gone be baby sitting” –Shaq

        Kobe kept all of the hate thrown at him and that is what drove him as we all know. After the All-star game success coupled with the Jordan comps and Kobe challenging MJ the peer IRE intensified. Del Harris didn’t want to start Kobe due the the heat coupled with not wanting to step on Eddie Jones toes in seniority. Kobe’s early success in his third season finally broke down many of the high school jump barriers as the flood gates seem to open up in the 2000’s.

      • josh

        Dude your high kobe was like v three fifth player ever drafted out of high school in nba history and the G.M. were. Sceptical about drafting a high school player. Watch the draft again. You tube it.

        • Daryl Peek

          Yup, Kobe was the 4th player to make the jump straight from high school and then be immediately drafted in the NBA.

          • josh

            Ya I knew it was close to that I watched that draft I remember not very many people were talking about him. Jerry West’s exact words after he saw him during his laker work out to Jerry Bus was that we are drafting this kid he will be special. From that point on he was talking to the team’s he thought would draft him and trying to make a trade. Kobe coming out of high school made him drop that far charlotte would not have picked him but west talked them into it. They wanted Vlade.

          • Daryl Peek

            Actually they wanted Kobe. Joe Bryant did force Kobe’s way to the Lakers. Remember Kobe was still a minor and his parents had to sign everything. He did threaten to refuse to play for the Hornets if they did not facilitate the West trade proposal. Duke was the destination if so. Dave Cowens took exception to this as he was a complete asshole to Kobe once they drafted him. From what I remember Cowens told Kobe in a very cold confrontational way the team didn’t want him on draft day, and that he was being sent to the Lakers.

          • AndrewUngvari

            Did you even bother reading the article? Not only did Joe Bryant not force anything but he and Kobe’s mom were so excited at the idea of Kobe playing so close to their home, they had dinner with the Nets front office the night before the draft.

            Kobe was turning 18 a month after the draft. He didn’t need his parents to sign anything. He also didn’t threaten to refuse to play for the Hornets. He refused to work out for them once he knew there was a chance the Lakers would get him. He wasn’t going to risk impressing the Hornets and convincing them to back off of the Divac trade.

            Duke was also not an option. Kobe had already signed an endorsement deal with Adidas in May, thus forfeiting his amateur eligibility. Look up an article by Stephen A. Smith on Philly[dot]com from May 17, 1996. He writes, “Kobe Bryant Set To Sign `Big’ Endorsement Deal With Adidas The Move Means The Lower Merion High Star Would Have No Choice But To Skip College In Favor Of The Nba. He Is To Sign The Multiyear Contract Tuesday.”

            Cowens wasn’t rude to Kobe. This is more BS. They had the ceremonial phone conversation every draft pick has with the team that drafts him. Cowens just wanted to make sure Kobe knew they were trading him. It had nothing to do with Duke. He did say that the Hornets didn’t need him. That’s because Cowens, who was a center himself, knew that his team needed a center way more than they needed a guard. Their roster was already stacked with guards and their centers were 42-year-old Robert Parish and Matt Geiger.

            I appreciate the fact that you’ve helped me prove my point as to why I wrote the article in the first place. Because people think they know what happened when they’re really just repeating the same BS stories over and over.

            Just read the article. There are plenty of resources.

          • Daryl Peek

            You need to do some more research before you write and article man. There are plenty of resources but direct quotes from the horses mouth are the best ones.

            ” On July 1, 1996, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac, to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant’s draft rights. Since he was still 17 at the time of the draft, his parents had to cosign his contract with the Lakers until he was able to sign his own when he turned 18 before the season began.”

            Kobe’s birthday is Aug 23. The NBA draft was held on June 26, 1996. There is summer league and training camp that all started before his birthday and it’s well documented, as I showed you that Kobe parents had to sign papers for him.

            Kobe did an E:60 interview with Lisa Salters where he actually said Cowens was rude to him. The man himself spoke extensively with great candor and detail about the Hornets, Cowans, West and all the hometown Philly hate he got as a 17 year old kid. He also spoke on the draft process in that interview. Does your article give direct quotes from Kobe himself? Andy Kamenetzky has an article of the original broadcast in the archives on ESPN Los Angeles Index. The Title of it is,
            E:60 preview: Kobe Bryant’s relationship with Philadelphia

            “Tonight, at 7 p.m. ET, ESPN’s E:60 program will be taking an in-depth look at Kobe Bryant’s tumultuous relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia. He’s interviewed by fellow Philly native Lisa Salters, who offers the following perspective: ”

            If I’m correct the interview I saw was much more than just his Philly experience. Kobe discussed a wide range of topics concerning many things about his career.

            Again do a little more homework. I’m not the foremost expert and I’m not always right but I get most of my info from the horses mouth.

          • AndrewUngvari

            The whole interview is on Vimeo [vimeo[dot]com/40337502]. Not sure what any of that video has to do with anything. But thanks.

            Here’s what Peter Vecsey wrote about Cowens, including quotes from Kobe:

            “Cowens: “You know what the deal is, right?

            Kobe: “Yes, I do.”

            Cowens: “Well, that’s good, because we don’t need you anyway.”

            Kobe is as stupefied and infuriated now as he was then.

            “Can you believe someone would say something like that to a 17-year-old!” he says, his face one-third smile, one-third scowl and one-third sinister. “That really threw me. It really hurt. Especially since it came from him. I knew about Dave Cowens. I knew what a great player he was. I followed his career. I looked up to him because he played so hard and showed so much passion. That spit just blew me away!””

            You are trying to connect two things, Kobe not being a Hornet and Kobe becoming a Laker, with a third thing that I’ve already told you can’t be true, that is Kobe threatening to play for Duke if Cowens drafted him.

            Cowens didn’t need Kobe because he needed a center. If Kobe either didn’t understand that or took offense to it, then he should have had tougher skin. The bottom line is he could not go to college at that point. Once he got paid money from Adidas the college ship had sailed. What don’t you understand about that?

            So instead of just admitting that you were wrong, you forced me to watch a 9-minute video about Kobe and Philadelphia that has zero to do with Kobe or the Hornets. There’s not a single mention of Dave Cowens in that Salter interview.

            Are you trying to say that the Sixers took Iverson with the top pick over Kobe because they were salty about him jumping from high school to the NBA?

            I need to know how old you are. Anyone who actually remembers 1996 and what the perceived risks of drafting a high school guard were at the time, would never be that ignorant to think that.

            Are you trying to say that Kobe ended up on the Lakers because nobody else wanted him? Please just quit while you’re behind. Click on all the links I used in the article. You can find that Vecsey piece pretty easily too.

            I think we’re done here.

          • Daryl Peek

            Not insinuating anything about Kobe and the Sixers. I never mentioned them. Kobe did take offense to it and obviously felt slighted. I’m not trying to make a distinction about if he should or shouldn’t have felt the way he did, I’m just stating what the man said.

            I may have misinterpreted and mixed up info about Duke and Kobe talking to coach K (things that actually happened) coupled with a well reported beef between Kobe and his dad who had plans for Kobe to attend La Salle University where Joe had an on going relationship with then head coach Speedy Morris. Again between what was said over the years and rumors I may be off base in some things, and I did say I’m not always right earlier.

            I remember full well the angst of drafting high school kids back in 1996, and have been a Lakers fan since way before that! Please miss me with the childish insults. I have not disrespected you at all in this disagreement. Your Make me wonder how old you are stooping to that level on an internet blog?

            Yes I know we are done here.

          • AndrewUngvari

            Please explain to me why you wanted me to watch that Lis Salters E:60 segment. I’m not exactly sure what point you were trying to prove.

            Kobe said less than a year ago that he was leaning towards going to UNC over Duke.

            Joe Bryant was an assistant at La Salle when Kobe was in high school.

            I’m not sure what any of that has to do with anything since I’ve already told you twice that college wasn’t an option.

            You told me to do my research and do my homework. There’s plenty of research in the article.

            What do Kobe’s parent’s co-signing have to do with anything? Had they not agreed to sign what he asked, he could have waited until his 18th birthday. That was my point. Let’s not pretend that Joe was calling the shots.

      • imacRuel1

        You are right about, “the NBA has been drafting high school ballers way before Kobe”. But the NBA never drafted a guard… It’s always big men. Kobe was the 1st guard to ever drafted after high school. GM would not invest money over inexperienced guards and would likely choose a young big man. But that was before… Kobe did change these negative perceptions from GMs. I personally think, that w/o Kobe’s emergence as an NBA superstar, we will never see the likes of T-Mac or LBJ joining NBA @ 18y.o. as well.

  • Jim213

    Haters going to hate but Kobe was drafted by the Hornets (13th!). Charlotte would’ve likely kept him but J West made it happen and pulled off the trade sending Divac to the Hornets. It’s called jealousy of success tho the 1996 draft is observed by some as the best draft bar none. IMO, it comes down to organizations not being able to evolve their own prospective players to success IMO.

    • AndrewUngvari

      Charlotte had no intention of keeping him. They drafted him for the Lakers in order to get Vlade. Just read the article.

      • Jim213

        SMH, re-read the post…the HORNETS WOULD’VE likely kept him but J West made it happen. They didn’t have to trade Kobe but DID… smh

        • AndrewUngvari

          They didn’t have to trade Kobe but did? When does a team ever HAVE TO trade anyone? The Hornets had plenty of guards on their roster and needed a center. Divac was better than either of the two guys they considered drafting and both of those guys were picked ahead of Kobe. If the Hornets would’ve likely kept him then what made them change their mind? What exactly did J West make happen made the Hornets go from likely keeping him to trading him to the Lakers?

          • Jim213

            ?! At that time Divac was a favorite. But heard Magic mention that West watched Kobe beat Michael Cooper in a game of one on one which led West to do his thing as he moved up the draft to acquire Kobe. But IMO I’d like to think that they wanted to draft the best option possible and as a result of seeing more potential in Divac than Kobe they went with the center.

          • AndrewUngvari

            Divac was a favorite? They needed to trade him to make a run at Shaq. If the deal with Charlotte fell through, the Lakers had a back-up plan to trade him to Atlanta for the 28th pick. Charlotte made the trade because they needed a center more than they needed a guard. Divac was 28. You don’t see potential in a 28-year-old. What you see is what you get. Its that simple. I’m not denying that West wanted Kobe. I’m telling you why Charlotte didn’t want him.

          • Jim213

            My bad, normally breeze by articles when they don’t have true content but didn’t see the other 2 pages. Pretty interesting stuff but I see someone already disagrees (DP). But interesting stuff as they’ll be another time for contradictions!

  • Daryl Peek

    OK, let me kill this tanking/worst to first ideology once and for all…

    NBA draft lottery picks (top 5 in each draft) that have won championships since the inception of the draft lottery in 1985:

    1. Scottie Pippen, pick #5 in 1987 *

    2. David Robinson was drafted #1 in 87 but didn’t debut til 1990. *

    3. Mitch Richmond pick #5 1988

    4. Danny Ferry pick #2 1989

    5. Glen Rice pick #2 1989

    6. Gary Payton pick #2 1990

    7. Steve Smith pick #5 1991

    8. Shaquille O’Neal pick #1 1992 *

    9. Alonzo Mourning pick #2 1992

    10. Isaiah Rider pick #5 1993

    11. Glenn Robinson pick #1 1994

    12. Jason Kidd pick # 2 1994

    13. Juwan Howard pick # 5 1994

    14. Rasheed Wallace pick #4 1995

    15. Kevin Garnett pick #5 1995 *

    16. Ray Allen pick #5 1996 *

    17. Tim Duncan pick #1 1997 *

    18. Chauncey Billups pick #3 1997

    19. Antonio Daniels pick #4 1997

    20. Vince Carter pick #5 1998

    21. Lamar Odom pick #4 1999

    22. Mike Miller pick #5 2000

    23. Tyson Chandler pick #2 2001

    24. Pau Gasol pick #3 2001 *

    25. Lebron James pick #1 2003 *

    26. Chris Bosh pick #4 2003

    27. Dwayne Wade pick #5 2003 *

    28. Adam Morrison pick #3 2006

    * indicates superstars that were first or second options that led their teams to championships.

    several different things here that are interesting to note;

    1. The length of time it takes for the very few true superstars to help lead a team to a championship.

    2. There have only been 9 superstars drafted in the top 5 of the NBA draft lottery who helped lead a team to a championship.

    3. There are only 4 superstars drafted in the top 5 of the NBA draft lottery who helped lead the original team that drafted them to a championship.

    4. There are only 4 number one,mega superstar, draft lottery picks that lead a team to a championship.

    5. Lastly, not one top 5 draft lottery pick from 2004-present has helped lead a team to a championship. It took LeBron 9 years coupled with conclusion to lead his second team into the rare air of dynasty talk. Adam Morrison was not on the active roster as he rode the pine in 2009 & 2010 for the Lakers.

    The draft lottery has been in place for 29 years, the 1997 Spurs tanked for Tim Duncan and he is the only top five draft lottery pick who changed the fortune of the franchise that drafted him, into a multiple championship dynasty via tanking.

    In conclusion, Worst to first/tanking does not work in the NBA.

  • Kay Carter

    Well said, and it all turned out for the best….he became a HOF player 5 time champion nd many more one of the Lakers Great

  • CyberCosmiX

    Calipari was under pressure to perform and therefore wanted to draft the most NBA-ready player, which he felt Kittles was. He’s been quoted saying that he felt Kittles would have been best short-term but Kobe had off the charts potential longer term – but he ultimately went with the safer pick.

    How could that have been omitted from such a wordy explanatory article?

    • AndrewUngvari

      That’s all true. It was mentioned in the article that I linked to and implied when mentioning the risks involved with drafting a 17-year-old. That was basically the gist of the conversation between Calipari and David Falk that I referred to. The reasons for drafting Kittles weren’t nearly as important to this story as the reasons for not drafting Kobe. That’s why I didn’t include it.

  • fakerstolakers

    This story is not important. I have been reading on this blog, how the Lakers will come to be an elite team next season.

    Did you watch tonight.

    When, you are last, it will take 4 to 6 years to built this house again.

    In, 1996, the Lakers had a playoff team, and it took, 4 years to win from the time Shaq and Kobe joined.

    In 2002, Lakers had an elite team, it took 7 years to win again.

    In 1988, the Lakers had an Ultra Eilite team, and it took another 12 years to win.

    They are in the worst dog house, and I hear they are elite next year.

    Appreciated it now, REVENGE. REVENGE. Let’s put the milk bottle down and grow up.

    This is crazy fanatics.