Jerry West started the Lakers revival by convincing Shaquille O’Neal to join the team in purple and gold back in 1996. Then, as if that wasn’t good enough, he traded Vlade Divac for a 17-year-old kid called Kobe Bryant. Kobe impressed him in predraft workouts so much he knew he needed to pair him up with Shaq.
Kobe played against Larry Drew and Michael Cooper in those workouts, and West said he “marched over these people.” at only 17. Kobe was still underage when he signed his contract with the Lakers, so his parents had to co-sign the contract. Nevertheless, West saw him grow up as a player into one of the greatest Lakers ever.
So when West was asked who’s the better player, LeBron or Kobe and who he would build a franchise around, the kid he recognized and drafted was the smart bet to make.
That is what makes West a fantastic front office manager. He cared about his players deeply, but that didn’t could his judgment. Kobe was his guy, but LeBron is a complete player according to West when it comes to facts. In a discussion you’d consider a close call, West had no doubts in his mind.