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Friday, March 25th, 2011 at 12:00 pm  |  24 responses

John Calipari Regrets Not Drafting Kobe Bryant in New Jersey

Cal’s decision to draft Kerry Kittles instead of Kobe Bryant — something he insists he was pressured to do — was the beginning of the end of his pro coaching career. Yahoo! has the story: “There was no way to get Bryant to drop all the way to the Lakers, so [Jerry] West began working potential trades. If Kobe could get to Charlotte at 13, he said, the Lakers could trade Vlade Divac for the young phenom. Team Bryant wanted it to happen. Only Calipari still was enthralled. [Agent ArnTellem] spun a 180 and now began claiming Bryant wouldn’t show up in Jersey, began saying they’d send the kid to play pro ball in Italy, where he’d spent much of his youth. Everyone now admits it was an idle threat. ‘Arn [wanted the Nets to draft him] until he knew he could get him to the Lakers,’ Calipari said. ‘Then he was against it. Arn was all over me, and then all of a sudden [I] get the call the day before the draft.’ Some people told Cal to stand strong and not get pushed around. Others suggested the safe pick – promising Villanova senior guard Kerry Kittles. It was the call of a lifetime. ‘Everybody knows that I was talked out of [it],’ Calipari said. He picked Kittles, a good player with bad knees. Bryant went to Charlotte, then L.A. The Lakers have won five NBA titles and counting with him. The Nets have won zero. Calipari was fired in 1999, his shooting star of a career suddenly plummeting to earth only to slowly be rebuilt … Cal’s sin was almost taking Kobe Bryant. He shrugs. It’s a lot easier to discuss now, when he’s on top of his game at Kentucky, when his career is back in the stratosphere. ‘Look, it all played out for everybody,’ he said. ‘I’m telling you I enjoyed coaching Kerry Kittles. Could it have turned out differently? Would [Kobe] have stayed in New Jersey? How about he says, ‘I’m not staying here. I’m not going to be here; I’m going to get traded in a year or two.’ All sorts of stuff could’ve happened.’”

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  • bashmo

    lmao. Well the Lakers will need a Coach next season…so maybe Cal’s dream might happen in a different form. Make it happen Mitch!!

  • burnt_chicken

    do they still make EC champs with a young Bean instead of a mature Kittles? What ifs are kind of dumb, as they always seem to be of the narrow visioned variety. Contingency is a huge part of life. Embrace it, ar at least acknowledge…

  • Jono

    Back then less people made b*tch moves like Melo, so Kobe might have stayed. Key word: might. It’s Jersey afterall.

  • http://slamonline.com AllBall

    burnt_chicken
    When the Nets made the finals, Kobe was an All NBA player. So yeah, they likely make the finals with Kobe.

  • burnt_chicken

    haha brain dead this morning. You are absolutely right, AllBall. But errr maybe if they had Kobe they couldn’t draft Keith, so uhhh….
    oh never mind. I stand corrected.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZLgFRoUeuU Desert Storm

    It’s a Joozy ting

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Jason Kidd sure would have wanted Bryant over Kittles, I can tell you that.

  • NJ4Life

    If Jkidd could make Kenyon Martin and all-star, get brian scalabrine a 15 mil contract with the Celts, and lead a team into the playoffs when the only bigs were Mikki Moore and Cliff Robinson, I can only imagine what kind of damage the Nets could’ve done. We would’ve had a lineup of: Kidd, Kobe, RJ, KMart, Mutombo/Mourning.

  • NJ4Life

    If JKidd could make Kenyon Martin an all-star, get brian scalabrine a 15 mil contract with the Celts, and lead a team into the playoffs when the only bigs were Mikki Moore and Cliff Robinson, I can only imagine what kind of damage the Nets could’ve done. We would’ve had a lineup of: Kidd, Kobe, RJ, KMart, Mutombo/Mourning.

  • robb

    Cal sounded just like a Portland exec

  • http://slamonline.com The Black Rick Kamla

    boooo…Coach Cal has proven he doesn’t know a thing about coaching NBA basketball, just doesn’t have the mind for it. @bashmo you’d kidding yourself if you think that he could move from the little dribble drive college stuff to the triangle offense and have any success…Brian Shaw is the heir to the throne

  • JL

    cal was a terrible nba coach. he’s better at telling prospective NBA players that he’ll help them get there without knowing anything about what to actually do to win when they get there. better at socializing than coaching. that said, he’s perfect still for the college basketball scene.

  • http://www.walshsportsblog.com Darren

    ok, so Kobe became one of the greatest players in the NBA, but Kittles invented the ‘one sock high, one sock low’ look. You cant put a price on that!

  • http://dodgers.com Joey E.

    he and 11 other teams regret it

  • http://dude Chukaz

    @ Joey E, you mean 13 other teams. The 12 that didn’t draft him and the one that did draft him but traded him

  • AirMamba

    No duh! Every team that passed over Kobe regrets it now. But hey, how was calipari supposed to know how amazing kobe would become

  • hoodsnake

    Kobe didn’t want to play in Charlotte. How the hell would they have kept him in Jersey?!

  • 6marjons

    you and 12 other coaches JC

  • BostonBaller

    Nothing /cal could have done…when an agent tells you his client will not sign then you just move on…bluff or not. Who cares?

  • http://slamonline.com Mars

    Regrets, but we all know Charlotte could of use Mamba too. Traded for Vlade, then “Marlboro Vlade” ends up on the Lake Show anyways 5 rings later all you can do is wonder.

  • mike

    kinda dumb, kobe is talented, but it takes more than talent to make someone great. who knows if he would have developed into the player he became if he had joined the nets

  • Bryan

    In other news, Portland regrets not drafting Michael Jordan

  • samo
  • http://none JOSELITO RACELIS

    This story about Kobe Bryant demonstrates the brilliance and magnificent foresight that Jerry West possessed in drafting an untested and young basketball player. Who would have gambled to
    trade the Lakers’ prized possession of a true
    center Vlade Divac for this unknown/inexperienced
    Kobe Bryant? Pause and think for a while. Coach
    Cal’s prestige suffered, Charlotte’s loss was
    Lakers’ monumental gain.

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