Following the 1995-96 season, the Lakers were in a difficult place. Despite winning 53 games and securing the fourth seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers were bounced in the first round by the Hakeem Olajuwon and the defending champion Houston Rockets.
Additionally, despite having six players averaging double figures in points, the Lakers lacked that true superstar to really carry the team. That all changed in the summer of 1996. The Lakers made two major moves that summer. In July, they signed center Shaquille O’Neal to a deven year, $120 million deal. The first move they made, garnered much less fanfare, but would have an even longer lasting impact.
The Lakers agreed to a pre-draft trade with the then Charlotte Hornets in which the Hornets would draft Bryant with the 13th pick, and trade him to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac. The move would turn out to be one of the biggest trades in the history of the NBA.
The Hornets were in need of a center after trading away star center Alonzo Mourning to the Miami Heat so the move made sense on both ends. And no one could have envisioned Bryant becoming the transcendent superstar that he would eventually become. No one except the great Jerry West that is.
After witnessing Bryant workout against some Lakers players, West was sold on the high school phenom and he made it a point to get him on the Lakers. Bryant and O’Neal would go on to form one of the most unstoppable duos in the history of the NBA, and the early 2000s Lakers became one of only three teams to win three straight championships.
Bryant would go on to bring five total championships to Los Angeles on his way to becoming the Lakers all-time leader in games, minutes, points, steals, field goals, three pointers, and free throws.
Bryant is one of, if not, the greatest players most of us will ever see in our lifetime. On this Throwback Thursday, we remember the Lakers trading for Kobe Bryant in 1996.
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