Kobe Bryant will retire at the end of this NBA season, and playing all 20 years for the same Lakers franchise is one of his most impressive accomplishments.
But Los Angeles wasn't the team that drafted him all those years ago. The Charlotte Hornets selected Bryant with the 13th overall pick in 1996, and if not for a trade involving Vlade Divac, he might never have worn the purple and gold.
Divac threatened to retire at the time, which would have forced the teams to call the whole deal off. In a recent interview with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, Divac explained his thought process, which had him on the verge of preventing the monumental trade from ever taking place.
"It felt like someone from behind hit me with a hammer," Divac told Yahoo Sports. "It was the first time in my career that something happened in a way I didn't plan. I was devastated. I was thinking, 'I play basketball for fun.' My father said when I brought my first [basketball paycheck] back home, 'Who gave this to you? Are they crazy? Do they know you would play basketball even if they don't pay you?'
"I am not going to play basketball because I have to play. I am going to play for fun. I was 28. I am not going to go somewhere and be forced to play basketball. I told my agent that I am not going to Charlotte. I loved L.A. I loved the Lakers. For every kid that played basketball, it was basketball heaven being with Magic and the other guys."
A meeting with Jerry West ultimately convinced Divac to give Charlotte a try, and he ended up averaging 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds in two years with the franchise before playing six more years for the Sacramento Kings.
It's almost impossible to imagine Bryant playing for anyone but the Lakers, and that's especially true when you think of how he might've gone to the Celtics. But thanks to Divac choosing to continue his career, L.A. was able to pull off the trade of a lifetime, and come away with one of the game's all-time greats.
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