Remembering how Kobe Bryant was almost a Celtic

Nick Friar
January 27, 2020 - 12:03 pm
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Being a Laker legend, Kobe Bryant was a natural rival of the Celtics. Though things could’ve gone differently. Bryant could have called Boston his home.

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Back in 1996, the Celtics had the sixth pick in what proved to be a legendary NBA Draft. Allen Iverson was the first overall pick. Ray Allen went fifth. Steve Nash was all the way back at No. 15. Boston ultimately went with Antoine Walker, who became a three-time All-Star.

But Bryant — who slipped to 13 — was on the Celtics’ radar. They worked him out leading up to the draft and knew he was something special.

M.L. Carr, the Celtics head coach at the time, recalled his interactions with Bryant during the pre-draft workout vividly as he reflected on the Laker legend following his death on Sunday.

“Kobe was a little bit different in that he was so knowledgeable of the game,” Carr, a two-time champion as a Celtics player, told WEEI.com. “He had a real understanding of the NBA. Obviously, his father, Joe, played in the league, too. But Kobe, we said at the time, he was the best interview of all the players we worked out. In terms of his knowledge, understanding what the game was all about, the history and also the players prior.”

As much as Bryant had a different way about him, the C’s were still hesitant to select a player out of high school. It’s a decision that Boston’s rival would benefit from greatly.

“Other than Jerry West, who saw it coming, no one could really tell you that they would have expected Kobe to rise to the level that he did,” Carr said. “He could have been a great NBA player. He became a phenomenal player. A great, great player.

“He ended up being a great ambassador for the league because he lived in Italy for a while. He traveled the world. People had the ultimate respect for him. And when you start comparing to the like of LeBron (James) and the likes of Michael Jordan that tells you what level he rose to.”

And even with all the good he did in the Laker gold, there was always a level of respect for Bryant. And he reciprocated, never once telling Carr, “You should have picked me,” or anything of the sort.

“No, he gave you that little laugh and wink,” Carr said. “He didn’t say, ‘You missed out.’ He would have never done that because he realized we had drafted Antoine Walker and he would never do that because that would show disrespect for the other player that you did bring (on).

“But he knew, deep down. We talked from time to time that he would have loved to have been with us, but he went with the other team and he ended up having one of the greatest careers of all time.”

After recalling his experiences with the high school kid who became an LA star, Carr offered his condolences to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, regarding the loss of her husband and daughter, Gianna, along with all those close to the late basketball legend:

“It’s a sad day for the sports world. It really is. It’s a sad, sad day,” Carr said. “Because we lost someone at such a young age — including his daughter. Let’s not forget his daughter. Again, our hearts and prayers go out for Vanessa and the whole Bryant family, and also for the Lakers. You think about it, they lost one of their icons. You don’t hear me say too many good things about the Lakers, but this is the time where you put the competition aside.”

Related: Remembering the greatness of Kobe Bryant