West told Bryant he shouldn’t join a team owned, at the time, by the despicable Donald Sterling.
The Clips had an initial shot at nabbing a 17-year-old Kobe, but told him they were the wrong fit following a legendary pre-draft workout in 1996.
“I remember when he was going to leave the Lakers, and I’ve never really mentioned this to anyone, he was going to come and sign with the Clippers, who I’m now involved with as a consultant. And I told him, ‘Kobe, under no circumstances can you do this,'” West said on Inside the NBA.
“And he was mad at everyone, the Lakers, the owner, everyone else. I said ‘Kobe you can’t go play with the Clippers. You can’t play for that owner, period.’ We had two conversations about it.”
In a “long talk” with Bryant after the workout, [Bill] Fitch said he shared with Bryant how impressed he was by what he’d seen, and also concerns about the organization as it was run by former owner Donald Sterling.
“He knew where we were coming from,” Fitch said. “He knew the Clippers were in need of a lot of help and were in dire need of a lot of things, including ownership. We had a lot of long talks about what he should do and where he should go and I said, ‘I can take you and you can play 48 minutes a game with anybody I got here, but it’s not going to be the career I want for you.’
“He benefited from us not taking him and money-wise he probably got more getting drafted where he did than he would have gotten out of Donald Sterling. I didn’t want him to have to go through all the things we were going through there.”