In the mid-2010s, the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves in the draft lottery regularly as they were trying to rebuild following the retirement of Kobe Bryant. The team drafted the likes of Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle during that time, but it is the 2017 NBA Draft that stands out most in the eyes of many as the Lakers took Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick, allowing the Boston Celtics to take forward Jayson Tatum third.
While at the time it seemed like the right move, hindsight has not been kind to the pick as while Ball has grown into a starting-caliber NBA point guard, Tatum is turning into one of the NBA’s best young superstars. This season has seen Tatum really take that leap having led the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals.
Making things even worse for Lakers fans is that Tatum was a diehard fan of them and Bryant growing up, and in an interview with Ramona Shelburne and Elizabeth Sherill of ESPN, he admits it would have been a dream come true to join the purple and gold:
“The Lakers were my favorite team, and Kobe was my favorite player,” says Tatum, who wore a purple No. 24 wristband to honor Bryant in Boston’s win against the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. “So it was crazy that the Lakers had the second pick and I was so close to a dream come true. But it was just like they didn’t want anything to do with me at the time.”
From the time the Lakers landed that second overall selection it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Ball would be the pick. The Lakers were so fixated on Ball, in fact, that they never even brought Tatum in for a workout, something that Tatum surely used as motivation.
Scouting and the draft is an inexact science and there are numerous examples of selections that teams would want to re-do if given the opportunity to go back and do it again. Tatum with the Lakers would have been a dream for him, and things would have been completely different around the NBA had that happened. But the decisions were made and nothing can be changed about it now, unfortunately.
Tatum pays tribute to Kobe Bryant during Game 7 of the ECF
Not only was Tatum a massive fan of Bryant growing up, but he also had the opportunity to work with the Lakers legend early on in his career. Tatum continues to show love and respect to Kobe and during the deciding Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he paid tribute to the Lakers legend by wearing an armband to honor him.
While it was certainly a little weird to see purple and gold on the arm of a Celtics player, the love and admiration for Kobe Bryant exceed anything else.
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