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Old 02-12-2012, 02:19 PM   #1
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Default Kobe shunned by several teams in 1996 Draft (NYPost article)

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Kobe shunned, bypassed by several teams heading into ’96 draft


Last Updated: 2:55 AM, February 12, 2012

Posted: 1:17 AM, February 12, 2012













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Peter Vecsey


HOOP DU JOUR

Second of two parts.

Friday, when Kobe Bryant led the Lakers into Madison Square Garden, we looked back at the 1996 NBA Draft, and how so many teams could have been so wary/wrong about someone so gifted.

Today, Kobe discloses other draft dodgers and dissers.

John Nash’s needle isn’t the only one stuck on the 1996 draft. That time period remains equally entrenched in Kobe Bryant’s consciousness. He finds some stuff that happened funny, other things exasperating and a couple occurrences outright incomprehensible.

I didn’t raise the subject; he did.



REUTERS

DEEP ’96’ed: Kobe Bryant felt shafted by a number of teams during the 1996 draft, leading eventually to his selection at No. 13 overall by the Hornets and immediate trade to the Lakers.




The one rubbing Bryant the rawest implicates Dave Cowens, then the Hornets’ coach. At some point soon after the Hornets selected Bryant with the No. 13 pick, the two had a private phone conversation that went something like this.

Cowens: “You know what the deal is, right?

Kobe: “Yes, I do.”

Cowens: “Well, that’s good, because we don’t need you anyway.”

Kobe is as stupefied and infuriated now as he was then.

“Can you believe someone would say something like that to a 17-year-old!” he says, his face one-third smile, one-third scowl and one-third sinister. “That really threw me. It really hurt. Especially since it came from him. I knew about Dave Cowens. I knew what a great player

he was. I followed his career. I looked up to him because he played so hard and showed so much passion. That spit just blew me away!”

Then again, by then, Bryant should have been accustomed to being disillusioned by Hall of Fame players. Twice he worked out for Clippers’ GM Elgin Baylor … and coach Bill Fitch. After the second, the two dream weavers invited Bryant to lunch.

“They told me it was the two best workouts they’d ever seen,” he said. “That’s it, I figured, I was going be a Clipper and play in L.A. I was pumped!”

Before Bryant had finished his fantasy, his magic carpet ride crashed. Out of nowhere, Baylor and Fitch flipped the switch.

“Your skill level is off the charts. Your athleticism is exceptional. And your energy and enthusiasm are remarkable,” they gushed. “But we can’t draft you.”

Huh? What! Why not?

“Because people out here won’t think we’re serious if we draft a high school kid at No. 7.”

So, Baylor and Fitch showed they meant business by plucking Memphis center Lorenzen Wright (whose July 2010 murder remains unsolved).

Bryant never had any reason to believe he would wind up playing in nearby Philadelphia for the 76ers, holders of the draft’s oceanfront lot. There was little doubt Allen Iverson would be the top pick. Yet GM Brad Greenberg invited Kobe in, anyway, for a test run.
“I guess they saw some of my high school games. That was the only explanation I could think of for not being asked to shoot or dribble or demonstrate any of my skills” Bryant said. “All they wanted me to do was to sprint the court. They timed me on a stop watch.”

Greenberg told Bryant him Iverson had run faster.

“So?!?!” Kobe exclaimed.

On the day of the draft, or just before it, Philly columnist John Smallwood implored the Sixers to draft Kobe.

“He said they’d regret it forever if they didn’t,” Kobe recalled.

“The funny thing is, he was on my ass for one thing or another my whole senior year. The Sixers were so bad I guess that’s why he turned his attention on me. And then in the end, for some reason he changed his opinion about me. He’s looking pretty good.”


DEEP ’96’ed: Kobe Bryant felt shafted by a number of teams during the 1996 draft, leading eventually to his selection at No. 13 overall by the Hornets and immediate trade to the Lakers.


Greenberg disputes Bryant’s version. In an email he said the workout consisted of more than running.

“He did shooting drills and other stuff ... had a great workout,” Greenberg wrote. “I just thought Iverson [was] a better selection at the time. I wasn’t comfortable going with a HS kid for the No. 1 pick vs. Iverson.”

Bryant estimates receiving well over 500 scholarship offers. Some were from colleges in places he never knew existed whose courses and schedules are completed online. Each day during a break, he would glide into Lower Marion H.S. coach Gregg Downer’s office and pick up the latest batch of recruitment letters.

One jutted out above the rest. It was from Dean Smith, not a form letter from the University of North Carolina, mind you, but a hand-written message from the aristocrat coach.

“I couldn’t wait to read it, but I didn’t want to do it with people looking over my shoulder,” recounted a roused Bryant . “So I opened it quietly during English class while the teacher was talking.”

Smith said he had heard how well Kobe had played against UNC’s Jerry Stackhouse (third pick of ’95 draft, by the 76ers) and knew it was all but certain he would turn pro when he graduated.

“However, by any chance, if you change your mind, I want you to know I’m holding a scholarship for you.”

Does Bryant still have the letter?

“Are you kidding, bro! Of course, I still have it! It’s from Dean bleepin’ Smith!”

If Dean Smith couldn’t entice Bryant to play for UNC, what chance did John Calipari and the Nets have of getting him to New Jersey vs. skipping off to Italy, which was the threat by agent Arn Tellem?

“Naw,” Kobe countered, “had the Nets drafted me, I would’ve played there and wouldn’t have tried to force a trade. I was 17, bro, I just wanted to ball.”

Oh, great, now he tells them. So, what would have happened had he become a Net?

“Calipari probably would still be coach,” Bryant said.

* Correction: M.L. Carr, not Rick Pitino, drafted Antoine Walker No. 6 in 1996. ... Mike Dunleavy, not Ernie Grunfeld, drafted Stephon Marbury, before trading him for Ray Allen




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