Kobe Bryant grew up wanting to play for 76ers

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The Nets nearly drafted Kobe Bryant. He previously hoped to sign with the Wizards. He once desired a trade to the Bulls. He saw himself playing for the Clippers.

The Lakers great added another team to the “what if?” list before what he says will be his final game in his native Philadelphia.

Kobe, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“When I was in high school, I hoped to be a Sixer,” Bryant said before his team’s 103-91 loss to the 76ers on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center. “I was always hoping that. But at the time, [Allen] Iverson was such a, such a force … but it was always a dream of mine to play in Philadelphia.

“But once that didn’t happen, my childhood ambitions of being a Los Angeles Laker was actual reality — this can actually happen. Once I became a Laker, I was never going to look back. But in high school, I was like, ‘Philadelphia is struggling. There’s a chance I could play for the Sixers.’ But it never happened, so I had to settle for my childhood dream, which was to be a Laker.”

The 76ers had the No. 1 pick in the 1996 NBA draft, but they chose Allen Iverson. Kobe went No. 13 to the Charlotte Hornets, who traded him to the Lakers.

It’s unfair to criticize Philadelphia for passing on Kobe. His draft range generally wasn’t thought to be that high – the Nets strongly considered him at No. 8 – and high schoolers are always a major risk. Iverson turned out pretty good, too.

But is fun to consider how history would have played out if Kobe had gotten his wish. Would he have led the 76ers to championships? Would Shaquille O’Neal have still won with the Lakers? Would John Calipari be praised for foreseeing Kobe’s greatness rather than denigrated for being the fool too scared to draft him?