Kobe Bryant gave Peter Vecsey of the NY Post a fascinating glimpse into what took place prior to the 1996 NBA draft, when he was a fresh-faced 17-year old looking for NBA employment: “The one rubbing Bryant the rawest implicates Dave Cowens, then the Hornets’ coach. At some point soon after the Hornets selected Bryant with the No. 13 pick, the two had a private phone conversation that went something like this. Cowens: ‘You know what the deal is, right? Kobe: ‘Yes, I do.’ Cowens: ‘Well, that’s good, because we don’t need you anyway.’ Kobe is as stupefied and infuriated now as he was then. ‘Can you believe someone would say something like that to a 17-year-old!’ he says, his face one-third smile, one-third scowl and one-third sinister. ‘That really threw me. It really hurt. Especially since it came from him. I knew about Dave Cowens. I knew what a great player he was. I followed his career. I looked up to him because he played so hard and showed so much passion. That spit just blew me away!’ Then again, by then, Bryant should have been accustomed to being disillusioned by Hall of Fame players. Twice he worked out for Clippers’ GM Elgin Baylor … and coach Bill Fitch. After the second, the two dream weavers invited Bryant to lunch. ‘They told me it was the two best workouts they’d ever seen,’ he said. ‘That’s it, I figured, I was going be a Clipper and play in L.A. I was pumped!’ Before Bryant had finished his fantasy, his magic carpet ride crashed. Out of nowhere, Baylor and Fitch flipped the switch. ‘Your skill level is off the charts. Your athleticism is exceptional. And your energy and enthusiasm are remarkable,’ they gushed. ‘But we can’t draft you … Because people out here won’t think we’re serious if we draft a high school kid at No. 7.’ […] Bryant never had any reason to believe he would wind up playing in nearby Philadelphia for the 76ers, holders of the draft’s oceanfront lot. There was little doubt Allen Iverson would be the top pick. Yet GM Brad Greenberg invited Kobe in, anyway, for a test run. ‘I guess they saw some of my high school games. That was the only explanation I could think of for not being asked to shoot or dribble or demonstrate any of my skills’ Bryant said. ‘All they wanted me to do was to sprint the court. They timed me on a stop watch.’ Greenberg told Bryant him Iverson had run faster. ‘So?!?!’ Kobe exclaimed. […] Greenberg disputes Bryant’s version. In an email he said the workout consisted of more than running. ‘He did shooting drills and other stuff … had a great workout,’ Greenberg wrote. ‘I just thought Iverson [was] a better selection at the time. I wasn’t comfortable going with a HS kid for the No. 1 pick vs. Iverson.'”
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