On June 26th, 1996, the L.A. Lakers pulled off one of the biggest trades in the history of the NBA.
It was draft night, and — contrary to popular belief — the Lakers had an agreement in place with the Charlotte Hornets before all the festivities even kicked off: Vlade Divac for a player the Lakers hadn’t yet decided on with the 13th pick. According to Bill Branch, the Hornets’ head scout at the time, it wasn’t until five minutes before they were set to make their choice that the Lakers picked up the phone and told them who they wanted, per Winston-Salem Journal.
At the time, it didn’t seem that one-sided. The Lakers had to unload Vlade Divac’s contract to make room for Shaquille O’Neal and the Hornets were in dire need of a center after they traded Alonzo Mourning to the Miami Heat. But hindsight is 20-20 and the Lakers look like geniuses 18 years later while the Hornets wish it would’ve played out a different way. (That way being Kobe not turning into a five-time NBA champion, 16-time All-Star and a one-time MVP, and Vlade Divac not jumping ship after two seasons in the hornet’s nest.)
However, despite all that, Kobe is still holding on to that moment and using it as motivation to, well, get better, I guess.
Kobe is one fascinating fellow.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) July 1, 2014