Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers. But so many teams claim near (or not-so-near) misses on acquiring him:
Add the Kings to the list.
Aided by agent Arn Tellem, Bryant tried to steer himself to the Lakers in the 1996 NBA draft. Los Angeles agreed to trade Vlade Divac to Charlotte for the No. 13 pick, which the Hornets used on Bryant.
Good thing for the Lakers they acquired that selection. Because they apparently couldn’t have gone any lower.
Longtime Kings employee Jerry Reynolds on The Deuce & Mo Podcast:
Geoff Petrie was going to draft him with 14. That was – Arn Tellem said, “Well, Kobe won’t be – if you draft him, he won’t play for you. He’ll go to Italy.” And I remember Geoff saying, “I don’t care. We’re drafting him. And then he’ll eventually come over.” So, that was a fact. And that’s exactly why the Lakers did what they did, to trade Vlade to get the 13th pick, because they knew they had, to get Kobe, they had to move in front of us. That is the facts, Jack. But Geoff Petrie was adamant he was taking Kobe Bryant, wasn’t going to back off whether he came over or not for a couple of years, because he knew he would have to eventually.
That would have been quite gutsy by Petrie, who was running Sacramento’s front office. The Italy threat scared off the Nets, who instead took Kerry Kittles at No. 8.
Divac threatening to retire nearly undermined the Lakers-Hornets trade. If that happened before the draft, maybe Bryant would have gotten to No. 14. And if the Kings drafted him, would he have played for them? He admitted he would’ve played for Charlotte rather than go overseas if the deal fell through after the draft. It seems likely he would’ve reluctantly joined Sacramento, too.
And how different would that have made history!
With the No. 14 pick, the Kings drafted Peja Stojakovic, who became a key player on some really good Sacramento teams. They could just never get past the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers. But what if, not only did those Lakers never exist, the Kings had Bryant? It’s incredible even to consider.