Back on June 26, 1996, the Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant out of Lower Merion High School with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. Bryant could’ve turned into the cornerstone for the Hornets franchise, but it wasn’t long before Kobe was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for veteran center Vlade Divac.
Ultimately, the trade proved to be a game-changer for the Lakers. Los Angeles won five NBA titles with Kobe leading the way. Charlotte, however, continued to struggle and never really recovered from perhaps the biggest mistake in franchise history by trading Bryant.
On Monday, Bryant took the floor at The Time Warner Cable Arena for the last time. The Hornets honored Bryant with a tribute video featuring one of his mentors, or “Muses” as he’d say, in Michael Jordan via The Cauldron:
Few players in the past have inspired Bryant more than Jordan. At times, it seems as though Bryant is a mirror image of Jordan regarding his style of play. Many believe Kobe is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Jordan regarding dominance on the basketball floor, and this level of talent may never be seen again.
Following Kobe’s final game in Charlotte, Bryant and company will travel to another special arena that will likely mean a lot to the five-time NBA champion. Kobe will face the Boston Celtics for the last time on the road on Dec. 30 before heading back home to the Staples Center to take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 1.