Oklahoma City News, Entertainment & Occasional Humor • Established 2007

The redeeming side of Kobe Bryant’s narcissism…

Quick quiz: What one person is most responsible for the Oklahoma City Thunder existing today?

Is it former mayor Ron Norick for laying the groundwork for the MAPS program that built what is now Chesapeake Energy Arena? Is it current mayor Mick Cornett for his dogged determination to get NBA commissioner David Stern to think seriously about Oklahoma City hosting a franchise? Maybe it is Clay Bennett for organizing the purchase of the Seattle Supersonics and mismanaging any effort to leave the team in the Pacific Northwest? Or, could it be Kobe Bryant?

I hesitate to say this because no one needs an ego boost less than Kobe Bryant, but without him, the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder never happens. Bear with me: In 1996 Bryant was only the second player in twenty years to enter the NBA draft after his senior year of high school (note: The year before Kevin Garnett started the trend.) Since it was not a common occurrence, the first twelve teams passed on Kobe before he was drafted thirteenth overall by the Charlotte Hornets.

At the time, the Hornets were very successful in Charlotte. Behind the star power of Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, they sold out every game in their ginormous arena. However, Kobe’s agent Arn Tellem was not about to let his teenage prodigy languish in a small market and labeled Bryant as a Hornet “an impossibility.” The two strong armed a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers who had recently acquired Shaquille O’Neal from the Orlando Magic.

The rest, as they say, is history. A history that goes like this: Kobe and Shaq win a bunch of championships together. Kobe starts resenting that Shaq gets all the credit, rapes a girl, and then forces the Lakers to trade Shaq during breaks of his trial. For the next few years, Kobe tries to win every game by himself while the Lakers stink. Somehow, Los Angeles is gifted Pau Gasol who makes the team relevant again, but this time Kobe gets all the credit and he becomes super marketable again despite the fact that he had to pay a woman to drop sexual assault charges against him just a few years prior.

Meanwhile, the Hornets lose Johnson and Mourning, try to replace both of their stars with Glen Rice and become a very ordinary, uninteresting team at the same time that their wonderful owner (George Shinn) starts demanding that Charlotte build him a new arena. The fan base completely disintegrates and Shinn takes the team to New Orleans where it continues to struggle even before Hurricane Katrina hit. As refugees with no home to play games in, Oklahoma City with its viable arena sitting empty welcomes them. The team is wildly successful here, but the NBA refuses to vacate the storm ravaged city of New Orleans. That convinces local businessmen to buy the team that is most likely to relocate, the Sonics. They move to OKC, rebrand themselves as the Thunder and are now super awesome.

None of that happens if Kobe is a normal human being. A normal human being would be drafted by a borderline playoff team like Charlotte and been stoked that their dream of playing in the NBA was accomplished without having to play on a crappy team. Because of his talent, he would have given the Hornets the superstar they needed to build around, Shinn probably would have gotten his arena without alienating his fan base (who rebelled because he let Johnson walk and traded Mourning to leave them with no one marketable). The Hornets remain in Charlotte to this day, meaning the Bobcats don’t exist, and Hurricane Katrina has no influence on the NBA. Clay Bennett never buys the SuperSonics because there is no local fervor in Oklahoma City, so the Sonics are still probably in Seattle being mismanaged and sucking.

Basically, the joy we in the 405 have experienced due to being a “Big League City” can all be traced back to a cocky 17-year old was not satisfied with playing for the team who drafted him. We have Kobe Bryant to thank.

I hope we can repay his kindness with a sweep.


  1. I was about to say something about your high school draft pick history being wrong, but I assume you mean “Note: The year before, Kevin Garnett started the trend.”

  2. Shinn never wanted to move back to New Orleans. He wanted to stay in okc but Stern made him move back for fear of the negative PR from the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who would have claimed the move was purely racially motivated and not for economic reasons.

  3. The first guard to ever be taken out of high school, Bryant was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.[22] According to Arn Tellem, Bryant’s agent at the time, Bryant playing for the Charlotte Hornets was “an impossibility”.[23] However, Bill Branch, the Hornets’ head scout at the time, said that the Hornets agreed to trade their draft selection to the Lakers before picking Bryant. The teams agreed to the trade the day before the draft and the Lakers did not tell the Hornets who to select until five minutes before the pick was made.[24] Branch said that prior to the trade agreement, the Hornets never even considered drafting Bryant. Prior to the draft, Bryant had worked out in Los Angeles, in which he scrimmaged against former Lakers players Larry Drew and Michael Cooper, and according to then-Laker manager Jerry West “marched over these people”.[25] On July 1, 1996, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac, to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant’s draft rights.[26] Since he was still 17 at the time of the draft, his parents had to cosign his contract with the Lakers until he was able to sign his own when he turned 18 before the season began.

    • Well, if the Wiki entry maintained by Kobe’s publicist says that, I withdraw the entirely theoretical premise of the article.

  4. I thought they shipped off Mourning the year before to Miami for Glen Rice and a couple of other players because Mourning and Larry Johnson hated each other (leading to the infamous Knicks-Heat playoff “fight” with Jeff Van Gundy grabbing LJ by the ankles trying to break it up.)
    Glen Rice became an all-star in Charlotte, and back problems eventually made Johnson worthless anyway.
    Not saying the Lakers/Kobe didn’t strongarm the Hornets, but they had no reason to draft Kobe after picking up Rice the year before. Ironically, Shinn’s own sexual assualt case and refusal to pay for anything (players, arena) led them out of town. Add in the perfect, ahem, “storm” of Katrina and we get the Hornets in OKC.

  5. Love Guy is right Mourning got traded in 95.

    As for the “letting Johnson walk” he got traded for Anthony Mason who like Rice also became an All-Star.

  6. If Kobe wasn’t trying to force his way into LA the Hornets never would have had a chance. John Calipari and the Nets were going to draft him at #8.

  7. Good article, but I could’ve sworn the judge dropped the charges because she wouldn’t testify. Oh yeah, he did. We all know he didn’t rape her. Stop hating.

  8. After reading all that, I was surprised to see that Kobe never starred in a movie with Kevin Bacon.

  9. The fact is that Brad Lund, former GM of the Oklahoma City Blazers, called the mayor and suggested he (Lund) would give up some hockey weekends at the Ford Center and play at Cox. This would allow the Hornets to have a place to play after Hurricane Katrina damaged the Superdome. The mayor called the NBA and next thing you know, OKC was on the road to Thunderdome.

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