Whenever we look back at Kobe Bryant’s draft day, we often conclude that the Charlotte Hornets made a terrible mistake immediately trading a 17-year-old kid from Lower Merion High School to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, before the Hornets drafted the young Bryant as their 13th pick, the New Jersey Nets had the chance to pounce on him at No.8. But unfortunately, the Nets did not stick with their instinct and opted for Villanova’s Kerry Kittles.
Maybe Shaq would’ve given it a go
As we all witnessed, Bryant eventually took off and became one of the greatest players of all time. He and the Lakers even faced and beat the Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals.
When asked if how things would’ve played out for New Jersey had they selected Kobe in 1996, former Nets star Jason Kidd said it would’ve “changed the landscape of basketball.”
“It would have made New Jersey an attractive place, a basketball hotbed with a player like that. When you have a player like Kobe Bryant and what he can do, he would definitely have gotten talent,” Kidd told ABC7 in 2015.
Kidd had first-hand experience of how indestructible the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe tandem was back in the day. Based on his assessment, even Shaq would’ve been tempted to join New Jersey, and they would’ve formed a Big 3 if Bryant had been there.
“And maybe Shaq would have been one of those pieces,” he added.
Kidd-Kerry was far from Kidd-Kobe, but it was fun
Without comparing resumes side-by-side, we could easily say Kobe was far better than Kittles. However, Kittles said that even though the Nets never won a championship at the time, he and Kidd “really complemented each other well.”
“It was fun. There was a lot of excitement around the team…He knew when I was spotting up and he knew when I was filling the lanes,” Kittles said of Kidd. “I didn’t have to put my hand up or call for the ball. He said, ‘I know where you’ll be and I’ll find you.’ He had this really uncanny ability of taking a quick snapshot of the possession as soon as it started.”
Looking back, the late Bryant began and finished his career with the Lakers, helping the storied franchise win five championships in the process. Arguably, Kidd was right, and the Nets could’ve been that team. But instead, one decision made New Jersey one of the teams that missed out on a once-in-a-generation player.