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“I was getting really pi**ed off thinking I should have just gone to college” — Kobe Bryant initially regretted jumping to the NBA from high school

Kobe didn't like that he was only getting 15 minutes per game in his rookie season and knew that would've probably not been the case if he had gone to college
Lower Merion High School senior Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was one of the first players who took his talents straight to the NBA from high school. The Black Mamba was 17 years old when he decided to declare for the NBA Draft in 1996, and he knew he was taking a bold risk by going to the pros. At the very least, the fact that Bryant was drafted as early as 13th in the first round shows that executives (especially Jerry West) believed in Bryant as much as he did.

But Kobe had his regrets at first.

So when Bryant was initially selected by the Charlotte Hornets, who traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac's services thanks to West's endless pursuit of Kobe, the 17-year-old joined a team full of veterans. Veterans like Robert Horry, Nic Van Exel, Byron Scott, and Joe Kleine got more minutes and touches than Bryant. Kobe averaged just 15.5 minutes per game from the bench in his rookie year, and that made him wonder if it would've been the same case had he pursued college basketball instead.

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"I saw my peers playing 30-35 minutes per game doing their thing, and I am sitting here glued to the bench. I was getting really pi**ed off and ticketed off, thinking I should have just gone to college. That was the hardest part," Bryant admitted in his appearance on "All the Smoke" podcast in 2020.

It's not hard to wonder why Bryant initially regretted going straight to the NBA out of high school. Aside from the 15.5 minutes he used to get, he averaged 7.6 points, 1.3 assists, and 1.9 rebounds a game in 71 games during his rookie year. Knowing how determined and egoistic young Kobe was, this probably didn't sit well with him — but at least it eventually still worked out.

How going straight from high school to the NBA worked for Kobe.

If Kobe ended up pursuing college basketball (he said he would've gone to Duke if he chose this path), then there's a good chance that he probably wouldn't have ended up with the Lakers. Assuming Bryant would've had a successful college career, his draft value would've probably been higher than 13th in the following years, which the Lakers wouldn't have been able to pursue, barring a trade.

There's also a good chance that Kobe wouldn't have played 20 years in the NBA because his body would've probably given up sooner, given all the college basketball and minutes he played prior. The fact that Bryant figured out how to be an all-time great despite an underwhelming rookie season speaks volumes about his work ethic, greatness, and legendary career. 

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