LOS ANGELES—Kobe Bryant says his passion for winning was shaped in part by the snubbing he received from the team that drafted him into the NBA back in 1996.
Bryant was just 17 and fresh out of high school when he sat down immediately following the entry draft with head coach Dave Cowens of the Charlotte Hornets who had selected him with the 13th overall pick.
“Charlotte never wanted me. [Dave] Cowens told me he didn’t want me. It wasn’t a question of me even playing here,” said Bryant after his farewell tour with the Los Angeles Lakers made a stop in Charlotte on Monday night.
Five-time NBA champion Bryant says the slight he received from the former Boston Celtics star player Cowens helped shape his championship character.
“I mean, I had grown up watching basketball. I knew who Dave Cowens was and was pretty excited,” Bryant said. “Then I was like, ‘Oh, all right.’ I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct.”
After the draft Charlotte traded Bryant to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.
Bryant announced recently that he is retiring from the NBA at the end of the current season.
Besides his five championship rings with the Lakers, Bryant has won two NBA finals MVP awards, two NBA scoring titles and was named an all star 17 times in his brilliant career.
Bryant drew a thunderous applause throughout the evening from a sellout crowd of 19,632, the largest ever for a regular-season game at the Time-Warner Cable Arena.
The Hornets saluted him before the game with owner Michael Jordan delivering a videotaped message.
Bryant finished with a team-high 20 points in the Lakers 108-98 loss and said that he was moved by the cheers from the crowd.
“It’s been like that in every city, fortunately,” Bryant said. “Here it is a little different because this is the city that drafted me. The journey started here. As brief as it was .... so it has more value to it.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott said Bryant deserves the respect he is getting in all the cities the Lakers have visited.
“It’s been remarkable,” Scott said. “The fans are showing him a lot of love, and rightly so. He’s put in 20 hard years and given everything he’s got, every single night.
“I think what the fans are doing everywhere we go so far are just showing their appreciation. I think it’s a beautiful thing.”
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