The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are the two most storied franchises in the NBA, and Kobe Bryant played a big role in keeping the successful hoops tradition going strong in Hollywood. Little did we know that Bryant was almost a Celtic.
In another excellent feature, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes highlighted how Boston nearly drafted Bryant with the No. 6 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, but ultimately passed on him for Kentucky’s Antoine Walker. Kobe, of course, fell to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 13 before being traded to Los Angeles.
The Celtics’ brain trust at that time included president Red Auerbach and head coach/vice president of basketball operations M.L. Carr. The two men were both extremely impressed by Bryant and everything he brought to the table, including a great workout and interview with the team.
But since Kobe was coming out of high school, there was risk involved, and Boston was looking for a player who could come in and make a big impact right away. Auerbach put the decision in Carr’s hands, and although it was tempting to pick Bryant, Carr wound up going with Walker.
While Walker had some success in Boston, it obviously pales in comparison to what Bryant has accomplished throughout his career. Just think how different things would’ve been if Kobe had the opportunity to carry on the legacy of Larry Bird.