Why Kobe Bryant never played for the New Jersey Nets
Kobe Bryant was drafted out of Lower Merion High School in 1996 with the 13th pick by the Charlotte Hornets and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he would go on to win 5 NBA titles. Among those 5 were a three-peat and becoming one of the greatest players in the game. Imagine if he were drafted by the then-New Jersey Nets who drafted 8th. It almost happened. Here's why it didn't, as recounted by ESPN.com
The Nets had an interest in Bryant. Nets General Manager John Nash knew of Bryant from Philadelphia and new coach John Calipari worked him out 3 times. As then Nets owner Joe Taub told ESPN.com, "We were ready to take Kobe, but then a lot of things happened with management and the agent and things changed [on draft] night.”
Basically, what happened was Bryant grew up a Lakers fan and wanted to play there. Lakers General Manager Jerry West was working out a deal with Charlotte, who was picking 13th, to take Byrant and trade him to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac. All Bryant had to do to make that dream come true was convince the Nets that he didn't want to play there.
Bryant and his camp succeed in doing that, even raising the possibility of Bryant playing in Italy instead. The Nets instead drafted Kerry Kittles from Villanova, who's Nets would lose to the Lakers in the 2002 NBA finals.
Imagine how different things would be if Kobe has come to the Nets. Chances are they would still be in New Jersey.
More from New Jersey 101.5: