This Day In Lakers History: Kobe Bryant Selected 13th Overall By Hornets In 1996 NBA Draft
Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Hornets

After early playoff exits in consecutive years, the Los Angeles Lakers went into the 1996 offseason looking to make some major moves to help get them over the hump. One way to do so was through the 1996 NBA Draft, where the front office had their eyes on a 17-year old high school phenom by the name of Kobe Bryant.

No guard had ever made the leap from high school straight to the NBA, but Kobe had seriously impressed during his pre-draft workouts. In particular, then-general manager Jerry West was convinced he was a future star after he destroyed former Defensive Player of the Year Michael Cooper one-on-one. But the Lakers had the 24th pick and knew there was no way Bryant would last until then.

The Lakers were also looking to sign superstar center Shaquille O’Neal in free agency and thus, were trying to trade away starting center Vlade Divac. The day before the draft, the Lakers agreed to deal Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for the 13th overall pick and on June 26, that pick was used to take Kobe Bryant.

Officially it will go down as the Hornets selecting Bryant with the trade itself becoming official on July 9, but the Lakers obviously told them who to select, and didn’t reveal their choice until minutes before it was time to make the pick.

That 1996 NBA Draft is considered to be one of the greatest of all-time with four Hall of Famers in Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and Steve Nash. There were also multiple All-Stars with the likes of Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal, Stephon Marbury and Antoine Walker along with some excellent role players such as former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby and five-time NBA Champion Derek Fisher.

Following the selection, the trade almost fell through as Divac did not like the idea of being trade and threatened to retire, but ultimately relented and agreed. Not long after, the Lakers would indeed sign O’Neal and put together arguably the greatest duo in NBA history.

But the first step in everything coming together was on this day as the greatest player in Lakers history, and one of the best to ever step foot on an NBA floor, was officially drafted.

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