On his national TV talk show this week, Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd recounted an old, if inaccurate, story involving Kobe Bryant and the Charlotte Hornets.
Cowherd was talking about bad franchises, and how they are often taken advantage of by good sports franchises. He used the Hornets as an example. As the story goes, when the Hornets drafted Bryant with the 13th pick of the 1996 draft, Charlotte basically kicked Bryant to the Lakers to acquire center Vlade Divac.
Four years ago, Bryant even tweeted something along those lines.
But the truth is not that simple.
Bryant’s agent, Arn Tellem, and then-Lakers general manager Jerry West manipulated that draft masterfully. West wanted Bryant and he also wanted to create enough space under the salary cap to sign center Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent. He ended up with both, reinvigorating the Lakers. The Hornets were more or less pawns in all this.
It turns out that Bryant's agent wouldn't let some lottery teams, including Charlotte, work out Bryant, then a high school phenom from Philadelphia. Eventually a deal was worked out: If Bryant lasted to the No. 13 pick, Charlotte would draft him and immediately send him to Los Angeles for Divac. Divac, though, threatened to retire rather than report to Charlotte, Bonnell reported, and Tellem got on the phone with Bonnell, screaming that Bryant would end up a Laker no matter what. Bryant even threatened to play in Italy instead of Charlotte.
Of course, the trade happened. The Lakers got Shaq and Kobe and later won three championships with them. Divac played in Charlotte and formed a solid core with Glen Rice and the late Anthony Mason and had a few playoff runs.
In the same article, Bonnell wrote that he caught up with Bryant a few weeks into his rookie season in '96.
I caught up with Bryant at Madison Square Garden before a Knicks game, and asked him what would have happened had Divac retired. He grinned and said he’d be a Hornet, that anything else was just a bluff.
So all this is, and what Cowherd is repeating, is just revisionist history. You can question whether or not Charlotte has been a good franchise, but the thought of them kicking Kobe Bryant out the door simply is not true.