Kobe Bryant sticks to story that Hornets 'never wanted me' after draft

Although he has played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. The Hornets almost immediately traded Bryant to the Lakers, in a deal that the future Hall of Famer's agent at the time, Arn Tellem, pushed through and planned for before the draft.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer does a great job summarizing the chain of events surrounding the trade.

Bryant’s agent, Arn Tellem, and then-Lakers general manager Jerry West manipulated that draft masterfully. West wanted Bryant and he also wanted to create enough space under the salary cap to sign center Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent. He ended up with both, reinvigorating the Lakers.

The Hornets were more or less pawns in all this. Tellem wouldn’t let some lottery teams -– including the New Jersey Nets and the Hornets -– work out Bryant, a high school player from suburban Philadelphia. About a week before the draft Bass asked me what I was hearing about all this. He suspected the same thing I did, that Tellem was trying to direct Bryant to a team outside the top picks.

The morning of that draft we got a tip at the Observer that the Hornets were discussing a trade to acquire a center. Eventually, working with Scott Howard-Cooper, then of the Los Angeles Times, we figured out this was the deal: If Bryant lasted to the Hornets’ 13th pick, they would select him and deal him to the Lakers for Divac’s pre-existing contract. That gave West both Bryant and the cap space to pursue O’Neal.

Yet according to Bryant, that didn't really happen. The Hornets just simply didn't want him.

From ESPN's Baxter Holmes:

"Charlotte never wanted me," Bryant said after scoring 20 points on 5-of-20 shooting during a 108-98 loss on Monday. "[Hornets coach Dave] Cowens told me he didn't want me. It wasn't a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already, a couple small forwards already. So it wasn't like I would be off the bench much. "

"I mean, I had grown up watching basketball," Bryant said. "I knew who Dave Cowens was and [was] pretty excited [to play for him]. Then I was like, 'Oh, all right.' I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct."

"Cowens told me, 'We don't really need you here,'" Bryant said.

Bryant tweeted a similar stance in 2014:

Either Bryant's memory has failed him as he's gotten older or he is just choosing to believe what he wants to believe. Or maybe Bryant is just preparing for his lead role in the remake of Memento. No matter what Bryant believes, clearly he has used this perceived slight to help fuel his career.

Kobe waves goodbye to the haters in Charlotte.
Kobe waves goodbye to the haters in Charlotte. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Writer

Ananth Pandian has been writing about all NBA-related things including the social and lifestyle aspect of the sport for CBS Sports since 2015. His name is actually easy to pronounce, just remember it is... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories
    24/7 Scores, News, Highlights