On Nov. 3, 1996, Kobe Bryant officially introduced himself to the NBA world. Bryant made his NBA debut for the Los Angeles Lakers 24 years ago, today, and it actually didn’t go the way you might’ve thought.
Bryant played just over six minutes off the bench in his first NBA appearance, and he didn’t score a single point. He looked exactly like a gun-shy rookie making his professional debut. Little did LA fans know at the time, but that rookie would grow into one of the greatest Lakers ever.
The Lakers landed Kobe Bryant in one of the most famous NBA draft trades ever
The 1996 NBA draft changed the course of the NBA for two decades to come. The Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant out of high school with the 13th overall pick in the draft, but they immediately traded him to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac.
Bryant went on to play his entire 20-year NBA career in LA, and he brought the franchise five championships. Meanwhile, the Hornets are still searching for title No. 1. Boy, it’s tough to say who won that deal 24 years later, huh?
The Hornets could’ve been the dominant NBA team throughout the 2000s if they just kept Bryant, but they never even wanted him in Charlotte in the first place.
“Charlotte never wanted me,” Bryant told ESPN in 2015. “[Hornets head coach Dave] Cowens told me he didn’t want me. It wasn’t a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already, a couple small forwards already. So it wasn’t like I would be off the bench much.”
The Bryant trade is still one of the most famous NBA draft moves in the history of the league.
Bryant made his NBA debut 24 years ago, today
On Nov. 3, 1996, Bryant made his NBA debut for the Lakers against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he didn’t exactly impress anyone with his performance.
Bryant came off the bench for his first NBA minutes and traveled in his first offensive possession. OK, that’s fine. Now the nerves are gone. Let’s just play ball. But it didn’t get much better from there.
Bryant took one shot in six minutes and 22 seconds of game time, and it didn’t even hit the rim. He did snag one defensive rebound and record one block in the game, but Bryant’s debut left much to be desired from Lakers fans.
Things got a little better from there
Bryant’s NBA debut wasn’t anything special, but the rest of his career sure was. All he did over the next 20 years was win five championships, win two Finals MVPs, make 18 All-Star games, and earn a Hall-of-Fame induction.
Bryant retired in 2016 as not only one of the best Lakers ever, but one of the greatest basketball players to ever lace ’em up in the NBA. He scored 33,643 career points in the league, which is good for fourth all-time.
On the 24th anniversary of his NBA debut, we remember No. 24 for his incredible basketball career and the even more incredible life he lived off the court.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference