Today is the last day of Kobe Bryant's career. You may or may not have heard something about it every hour of every day of the past six months.
Last night, on the eve of his finale, Kobe continued to fuel his competitive fire by posting a draft day photo from ancient times to his Facebook page with the caption "June 26, 1996... They told me they had no use for me. Rejection and anger fueled me." It was an identical sentiment that he expressed almost two years ago in a tweet, and also last year after a game against the Hornets. It's also about as accurate as most every other thing people post to Facebook.
As Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wrote in 2014, this is some pretty fictitious history. According to Bonnell a more accurate recollection is:
"I was there, covering the 1996 draft and the ensuing trade for the Charlotte Observer. To suggest Hornets general manager Bob Bass or anyone else in the organization rejected Bryant is absurd.
"Bryant’s agent, Arn Tellem, and then-Lakers general manager Jerry West manipulated that draft masterfully. West wanted Bryant and he also wanted to create enough space under the salary cap to sign center Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent. He ended up with both, reinvigorating the Lakers.
"The Hornets were more or less pawns in all this. Tellem wouldn’t let some lottery teams -– including the New Jersey Nets and the Hornets -– work out Bryant, a high school player from suburban Philadelphia. About a week before the draft Bass asked me what I was hearing about all this. He suspected the same thing I did, that Tellem was trying to direct Bryant to a team outside the top picks.
"The morning of that draft we got a tip at the Observer that the Hornets were discussing a trade to acquire a center. Eventually, working with Scott Howard-Cooper, then of the Los Angeles Times, we figured out this was the deal: If Bryant lasted to the Hornets’ 13th pick, they would select him and deal him to the Lakers for Divac’s pre-existing contract. That gave West both Bryant and the cap space to pursue O’Neal.
"This got a little complicated when Divac threatened to retire, rather than report to the Hornets. I asked Bass what he’d do if Divac didn’t relent and Bass said he’d keep Bryant.
"That put Tellem in a nasty mood. Eighteen years later I remember him screaming at me over the phone from Southern California that Bryant would be a Laker no matter what."
Bonnell also added that he talked to Bryant during his rookie year, and asked him about about those pre-Draft developments:
"He grinned and said he’d be a Hornet, that anything else was just a bluff."
Seems like maybe the wrong side is mad here. Still, we'll definitely miss stories like this.
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