It has been almost 20 years now since the Hornets selected Kobe Bryant in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft and then turned around and traded him to the Lakers. And while there are plenty of reports out there about how Kobe’s agent essentially forced that trade to take place, Kobe himself has always said that the Hornets told him that they didn’t need him before trading him. Just last year, he jumped on Twitter and Instagram to take some not-so-subtle shots at the Hornets for making the decision to part ways with him after the ’96 Draft.
After the Lakers played the Hornets in Charlotte last night—Kobe received a heartfelt message from Michael Jordan on the JumboTron before the game—Kobe was asked about the deal that sent him from the Hornets to the Lakers in 1996. And he maintained that former NBA player Dave Cowens, who was the coach of the Hornets at the time, called him up prior to the trade taking place to tell him that Charlotte didn’t want him.
“Charlotte never wanted me,” he said. “Cowens told me he didn’t want me. It wasn’t a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already, a couple small forwards already. So it wasn’t like I would be off the bench much.”
Kobe also said that the way Cowens went about speaking to him fueled him for years to come.
“I had grown up watching basketball,” he said. “I knew who Dave Cowens was and [was] pretty excited [to play for him]. Then I was like, ‘Oh, all right.’ I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct.”
Regardless of how or why the trade went down, it’s still kind of crazy to think about how differently Kobe’s career could have turned out if he hadn’t been traded. Do you think he would be who he is today if he had spent at least the first part of his career in Charlotte?
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[via ESPN Los Angeles]