(2013) During a recent campus Q&A in Portland, Kobe Bryant was asked what he remembers about draft day. His answer was something only a teenager straight out of high school would say:
“I was like, oh, are you serious? I’ve been waiting my entire life, whatever, 17 years for this moment and I’m not even going through the entire thing, not thinking about where I’m going at the moment, I’m being drafted and I’m worried about getting this damn pimple off my nose.”
A pimple! Not what hat he’s wearing? But the pimple on the middle of his nose!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since the second best shooting guard (MJ is still #1) in NBA history was drafted. 17 years since arguably the second best Laker (Magic is still #1) ever put on a Hornets hat, walked on the draft stage to shake David Stern’s hands, proceeded to do an interview with Craig Sager about playing for Hornets coach Dave Cowens, then took a phone call that would change his life and every fan of the Lakers. That phone call was with Cowens and here’s how it reportedly went.
Via NY Post (2012)
Cowens: “You know what the deal is, right?
Kobe: “Yes, I do.”
Cowens: “Well, that’s good, because we don’t need you anyway.”
Via ESPN (2013)
“Charlotte never wanted me,” Bryant said. “[Hornets coach Dave] 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.
“Cowens told me, ‘We don’t really need you here.’ Then I was like, “Oh, all right.’ I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct.”
As amusing as it is to think Cowens (who denies saying any of the above) was telling a player who would become better than any player in their franchise history they had no use for him, it’s equally amusing to revisit what Clippers GM Elgin Baylor and coach Bill Fitch had to say to Kobe after a pre-draft workout.
Via NY Post (2012)
“Your skill level is off the charts. Your athleticism is exceptional. And your energy and enthusiasm are remarkable,” they gushed. “But we can’t draft you.”
Huh? What! Why not?
“Because people out here won’t think we’re serious if we draft a high school kid at No. 7.”
The not-to-be-taken-seriously Clippers ended up taking the late Lorenzen Wright with the 7th pick. They then picked Mo Taylor in 97 and with the first pick in the great 98 NBA draft…they selected Michael Olowokandi with the #1 pick.
As for those “people out here,” they loved Kobe from the start….even with a pimple on his nose.