Twelve teams passed on Kobe Bryant on draft night, with the 13th lobbing his draft rights to Los Angeles. The Hornets dished the kind of pass that'd make the Showtime Lakers blush, and now that career is coming to a close. Every team has its own story on who they took and why they didn't take the kid coming out of Lower Merion High School, but the Boston Celtics tale is a fascinating one to hear about.
Baxter Holmes of ESPN delivered the story just in time for Bryant's final game in Boston, telling the tale of an incredibly impressive showing from Kobe during the pre-draft process. The Celtics ultimately selected Antoine Walker with the sixth-overall pick, who unquestionably had a productive career. Boston went the cautious route with a known quantity rather than taking the dive on a player jumping from high school to the pros.
20 years later and he's playing his final game in Boston, wearing a Lakers uniform through his entire career after putting on Celtics gear during his pre-draft workout. Holmes laid out the setting of how Boston had their eye on Kobe with their top-10 pick in the draft, with Red Auerbach giving Kobe his nod of approval (via ESPN):
Auerbach and Carr talked about how well Bryant shot the ball. Carr raved about Bryant's institutional knowledge of the game. Auerbach waxed about Bryant's size and athleticism.
"I think this kid is going to be a hell of a player," Auerbach told Carr. "But it can go either way. He seems to be solid, but he's a high school kid. You've got to make a choice based on what you need today. But I think he's a hell of a player."
With that, Auerbach took a long draw on his cigar. It was said he smoked six a day -- he favored Hoyo de Monterrey -- and he especially loved lighting up a ceremonial stogie at the end of a blowout win, a tradition that was as much about celebrating as it was about taunting (and infuriating) opponents.
"OK," Auerbach told Carr, "now it's up to you to make a decision."
It's a great story with some fascinating details between Kobe and the rival Celtics. The background of how this:
Came about is one worth checking out. Holmes scribed some fantastic quotes and history on what could have been but thankfully wasn't.