Kobe Bryant was selected 13th in the 1996 NBA Draft, but one thing was for sure, he was on the radar of more than one team. Bryant’s scouting report in 1996 may have portrayed that he was a weak rebounder, post defender and his ball handling skills were questionable, but several scouting executives still believed that the kid from Lower Merion High School possessed enough superstar-like skills to triumph over his weaknesses. That’s why teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers had their eyes on the 17-year-old.
The Sixers were close to acquiring Bryant.
Before former Lakers general manager Jerry West swooped in first to take Bryant home to Los Angeles, the Sixers were close to acquiring him. They had the 1st overall pick in the same draft, which they used to acquire the rights to Allen Iverson. But initially, Philadelphia planned to assemble Iverson and Bryant together to form what could’ve probably been the most lethal backcourt of all time.
“In 1996 Sixers scout Tony DiLeo wanted to draft high schooler Kobe Bryant and discussed trading a young Jerry Stackhouse to pair Iverson and Bryant together,” Jonathan Abrahams said in his book entitled “Boys Among Men.”
Unfortunately for the Sixers, West was so determined to acquire Bryant that he convinced Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, to make sure to go under the radar and trade Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Bryant’s draft rights.
West believed that Bryant’s first draft workout was the best he had ever seen, which was why he was so determined to acquire him to team up him with Shaquille O’Neal — the most significant free agent the Lakers were chasing in 1996.
Bryant vs. Iverson
Bryant and Iverson’s matchups were always one-sided because the former had the better team along with O’Neal. Their best head-to-head games occurred in the 2001 NBA Finals when Bryant’s team defeated Iverson’s in 5 games.
Although individually, both players had their fair share of victories against each other. Iverson averaged 25.3 points, 7.1 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 29 games versus Bryant, while the latter ranked up 24.0 points, 5.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds in the same games.
Ultimately, Bryant and Iverson’s career trajectories went different ways, and in the end, it was the 13th pick that ended up being more successful. Still, it’s fair to wonder what could’ve been if the Sixers pulled the trigger and let these two all-time greats team up together. Their careers would’ve been way different, and so would the NBA.