It’s hard to remember a time when Kobe Bryant wasn’t known as one of the best basketball players to ever grace the hardwood. But that was exactly the case at the time the Charlotte Hornets drafted him with the intention to immediately trade Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.
Bryant was a promising prospect that a few teams were aware of, and then-general manager Jerry West knew the Lakers had to have the 17-year-old phenom. Charlotte GM Dave Cowens didn’t, but knew his team needed a center, and thus was willing to swap their first rounder to add Divac.
While Bryant has a borderline-psychotic ability to hold a grudge anyway and probably would have vowed to make Cowens regret even considering trading him either way, it sounds like Cowens’ words to him on draft night only further fueled Bryant’s inner inferno.
During an appearance on Holding Court with Geno Auriemma, Bryant revealed that while he knew he might get traded to the Lakers on draft day, the way he was told surprised him:
“I knew a little bit beforehand, but then it was confirmed to me when I hopped on the phone with Dave Cowens, who was the GM at the time in Charlotte. He just told me, ‘Listen, you know, we’re going to get rid of you.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I kind of heard that.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, it’s cool. We couldn’t have used you anyway. I was like, ‘Oh. OK, alright. OK.’”
From the moment he first stepped foot on the floor, Bryant displayed the fury of a 17-year-old who had been the best his whole life being told that he wasn’t useful to a team most famous for… well, nothing really.
That type of fire seemed to light Bryant’s entire career, so really, Lakers fans should be thanking Cowens for being the first in a long line of perceived NBA slights that fueled Bryant to become arguably the greatest Laker of all-time.
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