The 1996 Draft was one of the greatest collections of young talent the league has ever seen. Not only were these players extremely talented, but they ushered in an era of young players leaving school early to pursue their lifelong dreams of playing in the NBA. Some of these young talents became some of the game’s greatest players, while others were unable to reach their full potential as players.
When we think of the class of '96, names like Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, and Kobe Bryant are some of the highly touted players that year to have really made it big. Between Iverson, Marbury, Allen, and Bryant, only Kobe was not drafted in the top 10 but had impressed the team with the seventh pick so much that their front office called it the best workout they had ever seen.
The Los Angeles Clippers had the 7th pick in the 96 draft, and with their pick selected big man Lorenzen Wright. Apparently, in their eyes, Wright was not the best player available at that point in the draft, having witnessed the best workout ever by way of a young man named Kobe Bryant. Being the straight shooter that he was, Kobe asked the Clippers if they would draft him, given the overwhelmingly positive response to his workout.
“We want to turn things around with our organization. We felt like if we drafted a 17-year old kid, then the city of Los Angeles would not take us seriously.”
LA Clippers Executive,
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Bryant, of course, ended up getting drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, who were actually picking for the Los Angeles Lakers after a deal was made to send Vlade Divac to Charlotte in exchange for the 14th pick. Funny how things work out sometimes.
Kobe played 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers and helped bring the franchise 5 NBA championships while elevating its status as one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The Lakers and Kobe achieved a lot of success together and did everything possible to build championship teams around him throughout his career. Jerry West knew what he had in the young star, and the city of LA found out the same shortly after.
The Clippers, meanwhile, have yet to make the NBA finals in their entire existence as a franchise and have spent most of their days as the less glamorous and less loved team in the city of Los Angeles. Perhaps, if they had taken that 17-year-old kid, there would be a few red and blue banners up in the stands of the Staples Center.