Kobe Bryant played all 20 seasons of his career as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. In the weeks leading up to his draft day, however, it was Boston who was keeping an eye on him.
In a story by then-Celtics GM Jan Volk, he compared one of Kobe’s pre-draft workouts to watching Michael Jordan.
“If you closed your eyes and thought a little bit, you might have thought you were watching Michael Jordan,” says then-Celtics general manager Jan Volk said to ESPN. “He did everything well — beyond well. He was exceptional in everything that he did. And then we commented, as I recall, on how reminiscent he was of Michael.”
Even back then, Bryant was a student of the game and was clearly able to impress the Celtics decision-makers at the time.
But on draft day, with Bryant available at the No. 6 pick, Boston chose Antoine Walker instead of waiting for the growth and development of an 18-year-old out of High School.
Bryant wound up dropping to 13, where he was immediately sent to Los Angeles. The rest is history.
In the following two decades, Bryant would go on to become an 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA player, and 5x NBA Champion. Many of his battles during that stretch were against the Celtics, whom he torched every chance he got.
It’s probably fair to assume Boston wishes they could have done things differently during that 1996 draft…