Well, it’s the day of Kobe Bryant’s retirement, in case you hadn’t heard. The Black Mamba is finally leaving for greener pastures, which means he’ll need to find some way to release his competitive energy, because that’s not going away anytime soon. Hopefully, he’ll put it to better use than putting whole NBA organizations on blast, like he did to the Hornets with a Facebook post on the day of his last game:
Kobe’s always been a master at using slights, real or perceived, to motivate him, but the Hornets never actually said that to Kobe. They never even implied anything of the sort, because as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer pointed out two years ago when Kobe claimed the same thing, they weren’t even allowed to work Kobe out before the draft. The architect of the trade that sent him to L.A. was Lakers executive Jerry West.
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.
This got a little complicated when Divac threatened to retire, rather than report to the Hornets. I asked Bass what he’d do if Divac didn’t relent and Bass said he’d keep Bryant.
That put Tellem in a nasty mood. Eighteen years later I remember him screaming at me over the phone from Southern California that Bryant would be a Laker no matter what.
Bonnell also claims that Bryant told him during his rookie season he would have stayed in Charlotte had the trade fallen through. It still remains a remarkable alternate history, since the dominoes wouldn’t have fallen to bring Shaq to L.A. It’s understandable that Kobe would concoct this story in his mind to motivate him — after all, he’s had people telling him he’s a legend for years now. Unfortunately, it’s also a story that reflects poorly on the Hornets, and unjustly so. Let’s keep it positive for the rest of the day, eh Kobe?
(H/t Jonathan Jones)