When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired the draft rights to Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets for Vlade Divac, I don’t think anyone besides the man behind the trade, former Lakers GM, Jerry West, realized what the Hornets were giving up. However, it was 1996, not 2006 and drafting high schoolers was nowhere near as popular as it would soon become. So, at the time, it appeared that the Lakers were the ones giving up more than they were taking back. Unfortunately for the Hornets (and the 12 teams that passed on the 17-year old phenom from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, PA), that would not be the case, as a long time Laker fan would begin chasing his dream of becoming the next Laker great.
While he hit quite a few rough patches during his first three years in the league, Kobe did not stop working hard. He went into each summer with a specific goal, and every time, would come out a considerably improved player. At 21 years of age entering his fourth season in the league, Kobe was steadily becoming one of the best players in the game. With Shaquille O’Neal down low and Kobe on the perimeter, the pair would form one of the greatest one-two punches of all-time and it would result in a dynasty footed by three consecutive titles.
Although Kobe’s immense talent and unparalleled work ethic drew comparisons to Michael Jordan, questions about his maturity would often come up, and it soon became nearly impossible for the duo of Kobe and Shaq to coexist. Following a public feud that was Perez Hilton worthy, Shaq was traded and a 26-year old Kobe was handed the reigns to the team. After experiencing a few years of struggles and a little growing up, Kobe was ready to become the player he had so desperately wanted to become. Five rings and one MVP award later, it’s official that the 13th pick of the 1996 draft is one of the greatest players of all-time.
Nearing the end of his prime, Kobe has the opportunity to end his career with more titles than most thought possible. As long as he stays healthy, I don’t see why that isn’t in the realm of possibility. He may not be Jordan, but he’s the closest thing we have seen since, and Kobe has done more than help continue the Lakers tradition of winning and greatness during his time as a Laker. httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyKgaeAoa-g
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