NBA History: In 1996, John Calipari wanted Kobe Bryant on the New Jersey Nets
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In 1996, John Calipari wanted Kobe Bryant on the New Jersey Nets

John Calipari, Nets, Kobe Bryant

College basketball Hall-Of-Fame coach John Calipari wanted to draft Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in the summer of 1996 whilst he was head coach of the New Jersey Nets.

Of course Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets and then quickly shipped off to the Lakers, where he went on to have a brilliant career.

To this day, Calipari still rues the opportunity missed.

Calipari remained at the Nets for three seasons from 1996-1999. He finished his NBA head coaching career with a record of 72-112 and then joined the Philadelphia 76ers as an assistant before moving back into college basketball.

As for Bryant, he flourished in Los Angeles alongside dominant big man Shaquille O’Neal and genius head coach Phil Jackson. If selected by the Nets, Bryant may have seen increased playing time as he struggled for consistent minutes in his first three seasons with the Lakers. In the end it mattered little, as the six-foot-six shooting guard went on to have one of the greatest careers the league has ever seen.

Calipari continues to remain at that pinnacle of college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats since he joined them in 2009. He continues to set the standard for college basketball around the country as the Kentucky system continues to produce lottery pick prospects for the NBA.

Calipari may still be coaching, but Bryant is now enjoying the fruits of his labor and spending time with his family. Even though he’s retired from the league, his name is still brought up on a daily basis in NBA discussions and debates.

It seems like just yesterday Bryant dropped an incredible 60 points in his last appearance, which was just another achievement added to his illustrious resume that includes five championship rings.

Calipari and Bryant may have never crossed paths, but perhaps it was for the best, as both have gone on to have fantastic careers within the game of basketball.