25 Years of Kobe Bryant: When the Lakers Star Had a Forgetful Debut Before Turning Things Around in Style

Published 11/03/2021, 2:00 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES, CA, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014 – Lakers guard Kobe Bryant listens as the National Anthem is sung by Jeffey Osborne at the season opener against the Rockets at Staples Center. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


In what turned out to be a swap for the ages, the Charlotte Hornets traded Kobe Bryant after acquiring him as their 13th pick in the 1996 Draft. The rest, as they say, is history. Kobe went on to become one of the Lakers’ greatest ever competitors.

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He had a chilling mentality that sent shivers down opposition spines, and this won him 5 titles. In fact, November 3rd marks the 25-year anniversary of the late star’s debut for the Lakers.

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Had the Hornets not sent out Bryant, who knows what the history books would’ve read today. Following this move, LA also acquired the powerhouse Shaquille O’Neal shortly after, making it a summer to remember. Kobe, who never held anything against anyone, had said “Charlotte never wanted me,” in 2015.

But the yellow brigade was perhaps the perfect destination for him, where he freely expressed himself. Though he didn’t have the best of debuts, what followed was a masterclass of a career. Let’s take a look.

When Kobe Bryant broke out in the NBA back in 1996

After the chaotic off-season, a young Kobe was set to make his presence felt. On November 3rd, 1996, the eventual 18-time All-star made his much-anticipated debut for the Lakers. Playing as a guard, it was hard for the rookie to find a place in the starting lineup. Thus, he was cheering his team on against the Timberwolves, before being brought in. It turned out to be a quiet night for Kobe.

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Coming off the bench, Mamba accumulated no points, playing for only six minutes. However, he managed to earn himself a rebound and a block. Though the then youngster failed to shine in his first encounter, the Lakers secured a 91-85 victory over Minnesota.

What followed was a rookie year that saw Kobe earning an All-Rookie Second Team spot. During the course of his career, he averaged 25 points and impacted many more lives.

NEW ORLEANS, LA. APRIL 28, 2011–Lakers Kobe Bryant is congratulated by fans after defeating the Hornets in game 6 of the NBA playoffs in New Orleans Thursday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

What started as a quiet debut in 1996, ended up as one of the most illustrious careers in NBA history. The icon will be celebrated today, and forever. Owing to his efforts, Kobe Bryant is set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame too!

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WATCH THIS STORY: Anthony Davis, Zach LaVine and Other NBA Players Who Have Donned Kobe Bryant’s Sneakers in the 2021-22 NBA Season

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Sankalp Harikrishnan

452 articles

Sankalp Harikrishnan is an NBA and Tennis writer at EssentiallySports. He aspires to pursue Sports Journalism and has represented his institution in cricket, badminton, football and table tennis. Sankalp idolises Roger Federer and Stephen Curry, and has an inherent love for statistics.

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