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July 01, 2014

Kobe Bryant's tweet: Revisionist history at its worst

Tuesday, on the first day of NBA free-agency, Kobe Bryant decided to get something off his chest on Twitter: That 18 years ago the Hornets told him “they had no use for me,” so they were trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Apparently time has eroded future Hall-of-Famer Bryant’s memory.

I was there, covering the 1996 draft and the ensuing trade for the Charlotte Observer. To suggest Hornets general manager Bob Bass or anyone else in the organization rejected Bryant is absurd.

Bryant’s agent, Arn Tellem, and then-Lakers general manager Jerry West manipulated that draft masterfully. West wanted Bryant and he also wanted to create enough space under the salary cap to sign center Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent. He ended up with both, reinvigorating the Lakers.

The Hornets were more or less pawns in all this. Tellem wouldn’t let some lottery teams -– including the New Jersey Nets and the Hornets -– work out Bryant, a high school player from suburban Philadelphia. About a week before the draft Bass asked me what I was hearing about all this. He suspected the same thing I did, that Tellem was trying to direct Bryant to a team outside the top picks.

The morning of that draft we got a tip at the Observer that the Hornets were discussing a trade to acquire a center. Eventually, working with Scott Howard-Cooper, then of the Los Angeles Times, we figured out this was the deal: If Bryant lasted to the Hornets’ 13th pick, they would select him and deal him to the Lakers for Divac’s pre-existing contract. That gave West both Bryant and the cap space to pursue O’Neal.

This got a little complicated when Divac threatened to retire, rather than report to the Hornets. I asked Bass what he’d do if Divac didn’t relent and Bass said he’d keep Bryant.

That put Tellem in a nasty mood. Eighteen years later I remember him screaming at me over the phone from Southern California that Bryant would be a Laker no matter what.

Divac gave in and the deal was completed in July. A few weeks into his rookie season I caught up with Bryant at Madison Square Garden before a Knicks game, and asked him what would have happened had Divac retired.

He grinned and said he’d be a Hornet, that anything else was just a bluff. So the idea Bryant now views any of this as the Hornets dissing him -- in a tweet with 41,000 retweets and nearly 35,000 favorites -- is really fuzzy memory.

Posted by Observer Sports on July 1, 2014 at 03:32 PM | Permalink


pretty sure that's a joke rick.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 1, 2014 3:53:04 PM

Ur talking about the actuality of the situation. But none of this means that the Hornets didn't tell him XYZ on draft night though.

Posted by: Jason | Jul 1, 2014 3:55:02 PM

Funny that for 18 years this didn't come out. 18 years ago Kobe's agent made it clear Charlotte wasn't big enough for his client.

Posted by: jason | Jul 1, 2014 4:07:04 PM

Kobe did workout for lottery teams, check your facts.

Posted by: Erick | Jul 1, 2014 4:54:16 PM

Kobe is beyond washed up nobody even talks about him anymore as a basketball player...best of luck Kobe with your social media career...while you are tweeting next yr the Hornets will be in the playoffs

Posted by: I am your father | Jul 1, 2014 4:58:40 PM

I always thought Kobe was a butt-head, even as a high schooler. Even back then, he viewed himself as a higher life form than most people and only a couple teams were worthy of the honor of having him on the team. I remember screaming "noooooooo!!!!!!!!!" at my TV when we drafted him. And I thought Vlade was just as much of a butt-head when he threatenedd to retire.

I'm glad the trade worked out. I can never root for athletes who think that because they can play this game makes them superior beings to others. And that's the same reason I would never want LeBron here, even if he wanted to come here.

Posted by: J | Jul 1, 2014 5:56:24 PM

Why do we even care?

The organization which was the responsible party resides over 700 miles to the southwest of us.

"We" didn't draft him, "we" didn't trade him, "we" didn't diss him, "they" did...

..."we" are the Boobs, "they" are the Hornets/Pelicans.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Jul 1, 2014 6:01:15 PM

^^^ one of the few facts you roll out.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 1, 2014 6:19:26 PM

Chad Buchannon. That is awesome. We actually have a front office. But upgrade over Higgins! Another solid move.

Posted by: James | Jul 1, 2014 7:41:01 PM

Just like to see people talking like this about the Hornets. Like the Buchannon move. Has to be an upgrade over Higgins.

"This combination should work well. Both are definitely qualified personnel men, and Cho already has Charlotte’s next chapter off on the right foot by drafting Noah Vonleh and trading down for P.J. Hairston.

Buchanan’s advice should only help. I trust Cho knows, from experience, they’d work well together

Michael Jordan once interfered too much. Now, he’s hiring bright people and letting them do their jobs. This seems like a continuation of that shift."

Posted by: Mike T. | Jul 1, 2014 7:47:31 PM

now if only the fans could learn about basketball now that they got the uniforms and mascot they cried about for so long!

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 1, 2014 7:59:07 PM

The Pelicans have a different owner as do the Hornets for that matter. Kobe has run out of people to be angry at.

Posted by: Alex | Jul 1, 2014 8:11:56 PM

If the Hornets had a use for him....i.e. if they WANTED him.....THEY COULD'VE KEPT HIM. PERIOD.

Agents can talk til they are blue in the face (and they can scream at you over the phone too)....they can't make the picks, and they can't dictate where a player that is drafted goes. You make it sound like Tellum ran the front office for the Hornets.

Kobe has no reason to lie at his old age. It happened.

Posted by: willy loman | Jul 1, 2014 8:18:19 PM

Kobe Bryant was NEVER going to be in Charlotte. N-E-V-E-R.

But let' say that Divac did retire and Bryant was forced to stay here. He would have been in Charlotte as long as he HAD to be here. He would have left just like Jabbar left Milwaukee, DrJ left he Nets, Shaq left Orlando, and on and on and on.

Posted by: Fritz | Jul 1, 2014 9:29:19 PM

I could not agree more than with these two comments:

"If the Hornets had a use for him....i.e. if they WANTED him.....THEY COULD'VE KEPT HIM. PERIOD."


"Kobe has no reason to lie at his old age. It happened."

Mr. Rick Bonnell I appreciated the behind the scenes information, but I can't help but to laugh at your title of this article. At the end of the day I'm afraid Kobe is right for the already stated reasons above. I could not have said it better myself.

Posted by: Eric | Jul 2, 2014 12:30:41 AM

Kobe knows the truth. That the then Hornets were manipulated to give him up for pennies on the dollar. His agent didn't want him playing for small Charlotte nor did Kobe want to play here. That is all a delusional rant from an older star trying to throw dirt on the current owner... Micheal Jordan a real NBA winner.

Posted by: Darnell | Jul 2, 2014 6:42:54 AM

I'm glad someone is talking about this! I was between middle school and high school during this draft. My dad went crazy after we traded Kobe for Divac. He said that he would never buy another Hornets ticket since they couldn't waste their efforts on new talent. Charlotte became a retirement team... A place for older players to ease themselves out of the league (I.e. Elgin Campbell, Derrick Coleman, Anthony mason, Divac, etc) those guys were old and working themselves out of he league via retirement. During the latter years (before the New Orleans move) younger players made moves to exit charlotte for playoff teams or championship rings. We could put together a championship quality team of former players based off of a players experience once they left charlotte. Think about it.... Shannon Brown, Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw, Alonzo Mourning, Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Flip Murray, Larry Johnson(grand ma-ma), Raymond Felton, Nazr Mohommad, Jason Richardson, etc. --- they all either got a championship ring or went deep in the playoffs following their exit from charlotte. So when Kobe made the Eli manning-like move to not play in the city in which he was drafted the Hornets organization was at fault for trading away talent. It's hard to watch these guys and consider them your favorite player when all they do is leave. I became a fan of the player and not the team due to the turn over of players.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 2, 2014 7:26:33 AM

Do people really think the draft works like the military draft? No player HAS to play for the team that drafts him. Kobe could very easily have refused to play for Charlotte and sat out a year, then re-entered the draft the following year once Charlotte's draft rights expired. It works the same way in every other sport as well, and with a high-value prospect, it's a very real and solid threat. Kobe would never have agreed to play for Charlotte, and the Hornets had no way to force that issue, period.

Posted by: Justin | Jul 2, 2014 7:48:40 AM

Anyone care that Kobe cheats on his wife and has the women he cheats with sign confidentiality agreements. He has done this in Charlottes as well.

Posted by: kobe is scum | Jul 2, 2014 8:09:56 AM

18 years ago I lost all respect for the NBA and especially Kobe Bryant. This crafted scam of "trade me to LA or I'll sit out a year and never play for the hornets" was bullsh*t.

Posted by: Thomas | Jul 2, 2014 8:33:10 AM

Hey . Kobe is greedy , selfish and a ball hog . But he's clutch , played defense when it counted , deferred when it counted and scored . His personal business to this level should be off limits here . We don't care if he gets side girls to sign confidentiality agreements . And Chris , good points . The next guy out the door is Henderson . He gets all the blame even tho Mkg averages 7 points and can't spread or shoot . When McRoberts only averages 8 points and the pt gd is the worst assists at the rim starting point gd in the league , thus precluding he and Mkg from easy buckets . He will go on to a top team as the litany of players you set forth and shine w ease . The next out the door is my favorite player , Mkg . Who will be the next scapegoat but this time , on his own . Mkg will go on to a top team like the Suns and turn the league out while the Hornets remain stuck in the never getting out the first round until the real problems are addressed .. Pass first defending pt gd . Big to big interior passing . A center who shot blocks , defends , rebounds and passes willingly .

Posted by: Iron man | Jul 2, 2014 8:36:18 AM

I remember when all of this happened too. But the thing that sticks in my memory the most is the fact that Kobe made the statement that he would only play for a big market team, Preferably L.A. or NYC.

Posted by: William Kirk | Jul 2, 2014 9:04:12 AM


You should do some research into Dave Cowens' private conversation with Kobe after the draft, as well as his press conference the next day.

Cowens made it clear the Hornets didn't want Kobe.

Posted by: ukuga | Jul 2, 2014 9:12:50 AM

Kobe is irrelevant. The past is the past. I hope he enjoys watching the Hornets in the playoffs next Spring.

Posted by: apauldds | Jul 2, 2014 9:18:01 AM

What's sad is, Mr. Bonnel is supposedly some type of insider, yet those who have followed the NBA and KB for his entire career know more about the situtation than Rick.

Posted by: ukuga | Jul 2, 2014 9:18:42 AM

If memory serves me correctly, Kobe NEVER wanted to play for Charlotte. His agent made that abundantly clear. The Hornets hands were tied. Yea, would have been nice to say Kobe played here, but he was never going to. Just because a team drafts you doesn't mean you have to play for them. That's why some guys play in Europe for a few years. Kobe apparently suffers from selective amnesia.

Posted by: PantherDave | Jul 2, 2014 9:29:23 AM

What makes all of you clowns think you know more about this situation than Rick? He is/was involved in the activities very closely.....on a DAILY basis. All you know about it is what you heard in the media.

Posted by: steve | Jul 2, 2014 9:38:14 AM

Thanks Bonnell - Exactly what we were told back in the Kobe draft days.
He made it plain, to anyone who would listen, that he would NOT be playing for the Hornets

Posted by: Rave | Jul 2, 2014 9:42:03 AM

again........this was a joke. kobe is NOT that delusional.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 2, 2014 9:42:41 AM

Something about Twitter seems to make people stupid and this is just another example.

Posted by: Randy | Jul 2, 2014 10:03:18 AM

Kuck Fobe!

Posted by: Me | Jul 2, 2014 11:17:14 AM

Kobe was a spoiled brat and made it clear he wouldn't play here. - John Elway

Posted by: John Elway | Jul 2, 2014 11:39:08 AM

Bob Bass was a genius as a General Manager with the Hornets. He kept the old Hornets competing for a Championship year in and year out. This was difficult with the constraints that Shinn put on him. The only mistake Bass ever made was Derrick Coleman. Every time we lost a great player, we got an even better package of players in return. So far Cho appears to be our next Bob Bass. I hope so.

With Divac, Bass added an experienced starting Center for the 13th draft pick. It was quite a steal. It didn't matter who the other team got in the deal (Kobe), the move was brilliant. Watching Vlade Divac and Glen Rice for the next two years was a beautiful thing.

Posted by: Bassfan | Jul 2, 2014 11:50:14 AM

Should the Hornets do a Sign-&-Trade for Lance Stephenson?

Hornets get Lance Stephenson for 4Yrs/$40M with the 4th Year being partially guaranteed for just $2-3M.

Pacers get Gerald Henderson and Gary Neal (if necessary) to make salaries work, or the Heat 2nd Rd Pick in 2019.

That will upgrade the SG spot significantly (antics aside) and the Hornets will keep their current salary cap almost identical at close to $19M.

They could go after Luol Deng (a high character veteran) for 2Yrs/$22-24M. That will be as much or more than he would get anywhere else. He will be a great mentor for MKG and Taylor, plus a great locker room leader, and his contract will be up just in time for the upcoming extensions of Kemba and MKG.

Hornets could still get McRoberts for 2-3Yrs at the mid-level exception and sign a solid backup PG and a 3rd string Center, plus another veteran like Tolliver or CDR.

That would be a really solid Hornets Team for the next 2-3 Yrs, while staying really young and talented, with a great coaching staff. The defense will be improved and the offense will be significantly better. And they will be nowhere near the tax line.

Jefferson/Biyombo/3rdC(Jason Smith?)

Posted by: Go Hornets! | Jul 2, 2014 12:29:47 PM

I'm sure the Hornets could have used his measly 7 points a game off the bench.

Posted by: Keyza Soulsay | Jul 2, 2014 12:50:45 PM

i would never say bob bass was a bad gm, but genius? competing for a championship year in and year out? talk about revisionist history.

we made the 2nd round four times in all those years. never a conference finals. that's not really contending to be in the final 8 a few times and more often NOT in the top 8. never in the final 4.

as for stephenson, we don't have to send henderson or neal to indiana. we could, but we have the cap room to do so without. we have absolutely no need for deng what so ever, and i do not believe exceptions apply to resigning players who have bird rights. you can still go over the cap to resign a guy.

giving up henderson for stephenson would definitely free up some cap room, but it's not really cap room we need and we could ALWAYS dump henderson on somebody later if we needed to.

I still say firmly that we should be signing stephenson and making a godfather offer involving jefferson and picks for love. it's the most realistic way to become a contender RIGHT NOW in a sustainable way. love hasn't played in a playoff game yet. you think he gets here, has talent around him, makes the playoffs, and still wants to turn down max money to go elsewhere? no effing way.

and i don't see minnesota getting a better offer. the teams that love will sign with don't have the trade assets and the teams that he won't sign with won't give up a lot without the guarantee.

roll the effing dice already. worst case you have a ton of cap room to sign a top guy next summer which is the exact same scenario we're in with jefferson once he opts out.

this is the only reason why signing lance is logical. overpaying him means you have a better shot at keeping love and getting somebody else to jump on ship either via MLE or via trade and extension.

you mfers keep talking about deng like deng is an improvement over our most talented young player. the guy is 20. he'll be better than deng in 2 years if you just let him be. maybe even this year. 273rd in front court touches last year and you wonder why he didn't score. it's an effing miracle that he scored 7 ppg with that few of touches.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 2, 2014 1:24:59 PM

Charlottean I would love to see such a scenario. But I have a feeling Minnesota is not interested in Al Jefferson at all, even if we send 2 future 1st Rd picks. We might need to include Zeller or Vonleh plus add Neal, to make salaries work, since Minny wants to include Kevin Martin in any deal for Love.

If the Hornets need to send: Jefferson, Zeller, Neal and 2 1st Rd. I would at least require Love to pick up his option (ala Chris Paul). Then Lance Stephenson needs to be added into the mix, with or without Henderson.

If Jefferson opts out, we still have our 2 1st rounders for future trades/upgrade, is not the same if Love opt out.

Posted by: RobC | Jul 2, 2014 1:37:04 PM

including henderson would cover martin's deal. if it needed to be an expiring, it could be gee and neal. and actually.......that would be a really good move for minny. gee's deal disappears and neal is a 1 year deal that is EASILY moveable to another team.

minnesota isn't getting better offers. the best that's been seen is david lee + harrison barnes + a late 1st. jefferson + 2 or 3 firsts?

and yeah you could sub in vonleh or zeller for one of those firsts if you had to. it'd be a lot to give up, but you'd get known commodity with a GOOD chance of making him the franchise guy.

agree about giving up the picks not being the same, but at least one of those picks (next years) would be mediocre at best. it's giving up picks for a short term upgrade that could potentially be the franchise guy. it's a dice roll, but it's the right kind of dice roll.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 2, 2014 1:45:33 PM

We are not trading Big AL.....Get over it. That would be the worst idea ever. the stupid stuff I read. Really? trade our all NBA center. Yeah that sounds great! do you guys watch basketball?

Posted by: J | Jul 2, 2014 1:56:43 PM

we are talking about trading our 29 year old 1 time 3rd team all nba for a 25 year old 3 time all-star twice 2nd team all nba.

it's called upgrading you dumbeff.

kevin love is an even more efficient scorer and even better rebounder. way better passer and slightly better defender.

I have zero faith they actually do it, but anybody with a brain would. you clearly lack one of those.

Posted by: charlottean | Jul 2, 2014 2:47:54 PM

Bonnell is right to point out that Bryant's memory is failing (or, more accurately, he's lying). Not sure why Kobe felt the need to lash out at the Hornets at this moment. Maybe because his career is in decline, his contract is a turn-off to other free agents looking at sighing with the Lakers, and Charlotte is on the upswing?

Maybe in 18 years, Jabari Parker will tweet that the Cavs told him they had no use for him, even though he tanked his workout in Cleveland because he didn't want to play there.

Posted by: Deuce | Jul 2, 2014 3:00:42 PM

Listen everybody I think this is a plea. Koby would consider playing for the Hornets now I do believe. This is his round about way of reaching out. Michael go out and sign this man. He is all but saying yes I am available Hornets sign me. Read in between the lines people he would be a perfect fit. He knows it and anybody with an ounce of sense should be abe to discern this!

Posted by: Duh E | Jul 2, 2014 3:26:22 PM


Posted by: charlottean | Jul 2, 2014 8:28:32 PM

Does anybody remember how badly that team needed a center? Every mediocre big man in the league ate the Hornets for breakfast. Vlade did well by the Hornets and played for years afterwards with the kings. He was part of the the team that could have been special had Bobby Phills not been killed tragically. Kobe would have used the Hornets as his jumping off place and shin would have let him walk or packaged him in a terrible trade like he did with most of the tallent the Hornets had.

Posted by: Ryan | Jul 4, 2014 3:10:41 AM

I guess the truth is somewhere in between... The Hornets needed a center and the Lakers wanted to sign Shaquille. Kobe wanted to play for the Lakers and he was the perfect fit for the deal. It's easy to criticize after the fact but at the time everyone seemed ok with the trade (except Divac.).


Posted by: cccmonteiro | Aug 17, 2014 6:13:30 AM

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