(Reuters) – Kobe Bryant became one of the greatest players in basketball, a transcendent star who went straight from high school to the game’s biggest stage and brought “Showtime” back to the Los Angeles Lakers for two glittering decades.
But Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday at the age of 41, was not initially rated by National Basketball Association (NBA) scouts as a can’t-miss prospect.
After deciding to skip college and go straight to the NBA, at the time an unusual career path, he was not taken until the 13th pick in the 1996 draft, by the Charlotte Hornets, who immediately traded him to the Lakers in a pre-arranged deal.
NBA teams at the time were wary of teenagers straight out of high school. The 1996 draft was also particularly strong, though some of the players taken before Bryant turned out to be complete busts.
Acquiring Bryant from the Hornets was one of the best pieces of business the Lakers ever did, as he led the team to five NBA championship rings and was the face of the franchise during his 20-year career that ended in 2016.
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