And you know the story. Kobe went on to help the Lakers win four championships and is now considered the greatest shooting guard not named Michael Jordan.
Kobe reportedly did not want to play for the Hornets, so of course, the team had no choice but to trade him.
Trade a fairly unknown high school kid for one of the league's top centers? That was a no-brainer for the Hornets as it appeared that they were the clear winners in the deal. They had no idea it would go down as one of the most lopsided trades in sports history.
But what if Kobe didn't get traded?
Well, one thing is for sure: the Hornets would have never moved to New Orleans. In fact, they wouldn't have moved anywhere.
The main reason the team relocated was due to their awfully low attendance numbers. However, with a superstar like Kobe playing his home games in the Queen City, the arena would have stayed sold out with excited fans.
Kobe probably would have came off the bench during his first two seasons like he did in L.A. High schoolers usually didn't start immediately back then.
By the 1998-99 season, he could have teamed with All-Star Glen Rice to form one of the league's highest scoring duos. Yes, for all of you newer NBA fans, Glen Rice was the real deal back then.
Rice would have eventually been traded as Kobe took over as the Hornets' franchise player.
Would Kobe have won any titles in Charlotte? Who knows. It depends on what kind of talent the team would have surrounded him with.
There's a possibility that the Hornets could have acquired another superstar down the road. Heck, maybe Shaquille O'Neal could have joined the team at some point and a dynasty would have brewed in Charlotte instead of L.A.
Of course, there's also a possibility that Kobe's Hornets career could have turned out like Kevin Garnett's in Minnesota. Or in other words, he could have been a superstar on a team that usually didn't make it past the first round of the playoffs.
But one thing we do know: Lakers fans will always be happy that the Hornets didn't keep that skinny, high school kid for themselves.