Remembering Kobe Bryant’s Scoreless NBA Debut in 1996
In the summer of 1996, a few weeks after getting drafted by the Hornets, told he wasn’t needed, then traded to the Lakers, a 17-year old Kobe Bryant made his NBA summer league debut and scored a team high 27 points against the Detroit Pistons. After the game, impressed Pistons’ coach Alvin Gentry raved about the rookie by saying, “I have never seen a better player at his age at his position.”
The Lakers then went to play an exhibition game in China, where Kobe eclipsed the 20 point mark again with 22. He followed that game up with a 15 point performance and then came his statement game against the Phoenix Suns: Kobe, wearing #32, scored a summer-high 36 points (9 of 22 from the field and 17-21 from the line) in 38 minutes and dished out 5 assists. He also had 7 turnovers but nobody was complaining.
The complaints came right before training camp, when he broke his left wrist playing a pick-up game at Venice Beach and couldn’t practice for five weeks.
“This will set him back.” GM Mitch Kupchak said. “This will certainly ensure that we will bring him along slowly, that’s for sure. If you’re looking for a silver lining, it’s that we won’t rush him along.”
Then in one of his first exhibition games, he suffered another injury and sat out most of the preseason and the first game of the season; An easy win over the Phoenix Suns and the LA debut of Shaq (23 points, 14 rebounds) and a little known Steve Nash (0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists in 5 minutes). KG had 12 points and 6 boards for the Wolves, who were led by Tom “Not the Next Larry Bird” Gugliotta aka Googs.
Two days later, November 3rd of 1996, Kobe made his official NBA debut against the Minnesota Timberwolves and a 2nd year Kevin Garnett. Shaq dominated (35 points & 19 rebounds) and Kobe played six minutes, finishing with 0 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 1 block, 0 steals, 1 turnover, 1 foul and just 1 field goal attempt.
He would score his first point two days later in a game against the Knicks and finished with just one point in three minutes of action! You could say Kobe had a slow start to his NBA career but he turned out OK.