Kobe Bryant's Legacy Discussed by Fellow 1996 NBA Draft Class Members

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 11, 2021

FILE - In this April 13, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant smiles during the first half of his last NBA basketball game, against the Utah Jazz in Los Angeles. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was gearing up for a great year: not just the certain election of NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, but also a chance to unveil a completely renovated museum. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the reopening has been pushed back two months to July 1 and the induction ceremony is being postponed, either to October or the spring. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

As part of the NBA's spotlight on the 1996 draft, Kobe Bryant's legacy was discussed by fellow members of that iconic class.

NBA TV premiered Ready or Not: The '96 NBA Draft on Sunday night. Bryant emerged as the biggest star from the group that featured four Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers, including Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and Steve Nash.

Iverson, the top pick in that year's draft, said he considers the two best players in NBA history to be Michael Jordan and Bryant.

"You can't have a basketball conversation without Kobe Bryant," Iverson added. "There's no way. He's definitely on that Mount Rushmore of basketball players."

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

"You can't have a basketball conversation without Kobe Bryant. … He's definitely on that Mount Rushmore of basketball players."<br><br>A.I. reflects on the legacy of Kobe Bryant<br><br>(via @NBATV’s Ready or Not: The '96 NBA Draft) pic.twitter.com/gQ36X7y9eg

Derek Fisher, who was the No. 24 pick in the 1996 draft, said Bryant "wanted to win" and prove "that he could lead teams to championships."

Bryant and Fisher spent 12 full seasons together as teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers. Fisher was the Lakers' first-round pick in that draft. Bryant, the No. 13 pick, was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Charlotte Hornets for Vlade Divac.

Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown said Bryant and Jordan had an "unbelievable will to win" beyond just the games. They had the "will to win ... every practice, every something" was a competition for them to win.

The '96 draft class featured 10 players who were named to at least one All-Star team. Bryant rose to the top of the group because of his much-talked-about work ethic, which helped him win five championships, make the All-NBA first team 11 times and have both of his jersey numbers (8 and 24) retired by the Lakers.

Bryant was among nine people killed in a January 2020 helicopter crash in California. He was 41 years old.


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