Bryant and Garnett will always be linked since they went to the NBA from high school. KG entered the pros one year before the Black Mamba, and the latter was glad it worked out that way.
Kobe Bryant: I’m happy Kevin Garnett went to the NBA before me
I AM KOBE, which is a documentary podcast series through Diversion Podcasts, chronicles the early years of Bryant through never-before-heard audio tapes of the Los Angeles Lakers legend during his rise to basketball stardom. In the latest episode, a 15-year-old Bryant talks about going to the NBA from high school and how he was pleased to see Garnett make the leap before he did.
“Everybody is talking about how I have the ability to go to the NBA, especially now that Kevin had made the jump and kind of opened the doors,” Bryant said. “People thought that’s what led to me considering it, but I had the thought all along. He just beat me to the punch. I’m actually happy that he did it [first] because it takes a little bit of the pressure off me.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Garnett with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft out of Farragut Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois. One year later, the Charlotte Hornets selected Bryant with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 draft out of Lower Merion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The Hornets then traded the shooting guard to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.
Neither Bryant nor Garnett made the All-Star team as a rookie. However, they both took off after learning the NBA game.
Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett were incredible players
Bryant and Garnett combined to win six championships and two regular-season MVPs. The former won five rings with the Lakers, while the latter won one with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Ironically, Garnett’s lone championship came against Bryant and the Lakers.
In 1,462 games, Garnett averaged 17.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.4 blocks. He made 15 All-Star teams, 12 All-Defensive teams, and nine All-NBA teams. The Big Ticket won the 2003-04 MVP Award and the 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020 and named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Meanwhile, Bryant spent his entire iconic career with the Lakers. He averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists and is the Lakers’ all-time leader in points. Bryant made 18 All-Star teams, 12 All-Defensive teams, and 15 All-NBA teams. He won the 2007-08 MVP Award and took home two Finals MVPs in 2009 and 2010.
Like Garnett, Bryant was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020. Unfortunately, he tragically died in a devastating helicopter crash, so Vanessa Bryant spoke at the ceremony.
Vanessa gave powerful speech
With Michael Jordan behind her, Vanessa gave a powerful speech about her late husband, who is the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history.
“Kobe was on a different level,” Vaness said. “He never took shortcuts when it came to basketball. He gave this game his all. If he could help it, he’d play every minute of every game. He loved you all so much. He did the work. He broke those records. He inspired people to be great. I want to thank him for somehow finding ways to dedicate time to not only being an incredible athlete, a visionary entrepreneur and storyteller but for also being an amazing family man.”
The Lakers retired both of Bryant’s jersey numbers (8 and 24). They will likely build a Kobe statue in the future as well outside of Staples Center since he meant so much to the franchise and fan base. Meanwhile, the Celtics will retire Garnett’s No. 5 jersey on March 13, 2022.