Hornets would’ve held on to Kobe Bryant if Vlade Divac insisted he’d retire if traded from the Lakers
Kobe Bryant is synonymous with the Los Angeles Lakers after playing the entirety of his 20-year career with the purple and gold. But the Laker legend was almost a Hornet. Bryant was selected by Charlotte in the 1996 NBA Draft, but he had no desire to play for the Hornets.
He was then traded to Los Angeles in exchange for Vlade Divac. But according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, the deal nearly hit a snag. Vlade Divac threatened to retire if traded to Charlotte. Bryant didn’t want to play for Charlotte, but if he had no other option, he would have suited up for the Hornets. Bonnell writes:
“A couple of weeks into Bryant’s rookie season, I interviewed him in New York and asked what he really would have done had the trade not gone through. Bryant admitted he’d have been a Hornet.”
Regardless, the deal went through and Bryant was sent to the Lakers.
Divac didn’t retire. In fact, he played in Charlotte for two years before leaving for the Sacramento Kings.
This trade changed the fortunes of the Lakers. Bryant went on to be a perennial All-Star and won multiple championships during his career.
Divac and the Kings had some epic battles with Kobe’s Lakers in the postseason, most notably in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. One of Kobe’s five championships came in 2002 after the Lakers dispatched the New Jersey Nets following their victory over the Kings.