On July 11, 1996, the Los Angeles Lakers officially completed a trade with the Charlotte Hornets to acquire the late great Kobe Bryant.
Bryant first came onto the Lakers’ radar during his pre-draft workouts in L.A. that famously impressed general manager and Lakers legend Jerry West.
The only problem though was that the Lakers did not have a lottery pick and needed to complete a trade to acquire Bryant, which is where the Hornets came into play.
It’s no secret that the Lakers were courting free-agent center Shaquille O’Neal at the time, but in order to sign him, they have to clear some salary-cap space. At the same time, the Hornets needed a center, so West saw that as a perfect opportunity to unload Vlade Divac’s salary in exchange for the 13th pick, which was the first outside of the lottery, saving even more money to sign O’Neal.
Bryant slipping all the way to 13 was another issue, although he deterred teams as a player coming straight out of high school that refused to workout for a lot of them in hopes of falling to the Lakers.
The New Jersey Nets, who had the eighth pick, seriously considered drafting Kobe but then-general manager John Nash and head coach John Calipari ultimately went with Kerry Kittles instead after Bryant threatened to play in Italy if he did not get drafted by a team of his liking.
Bryant eventually fell for 13th and the Hornets took him, paving the way for him to be traded to the Lakers. Kobe even tweeted years later that the Hornets told him they had no use for him:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) July 1, 2014
While the deal seemed all but done and Bryant was getting set to begin his career in L.A., Divac put a wrench in things by saying he didn’t want to be traded and threatening to retire if he was dealt.
It took from June 26 until July 11 for Divac to finally agree to the deal, paving the way for Bryant to be a Laker. Then, seven days later, the Lakers officially signed O’Neal and a new dynasty that led to the NBA’s last three-peat was created.
In Bryant’s 20-year career with the Lakers, he was named to 18 All-Star teams while winning five championships. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in May of 2021 as a part of the 2020 class.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!