When Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft—and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers soon thereafter – he was just a teenager. He made the leap from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia to the NBA Draft as a 17-year-old kid, and the legend of Kobe Bryant began almost immediately.
Bryant moved from Philly to Los Angeles that summer, beginning the transition to the city where he would spend his entire NBA career. And from the moment he landed he was itching to hoop. Before Lakers training camp even began, Bryant found his way to the campus of UCLA, where the Bruins men’s basketball team was coming off a national championship. According to Jaleel White, the actor who famously played Steve Urkel on Family Matters and who was attending UCLA at the time, Bryant would challenge some of the members of the team to pickup games—and absolutely wreck them.
“I watched him destroy young men’s dreams at 17,” White told TMZ Sports. “And we had just won a ’95 championship that year so we had a lot of guys on the team that were pretty cocky. Probably the greatest pickup games I’ve ever seen in my life.”
If people hadn’t figured out by then that Bryant was a basketball assassin obsessed with defeating any and every opponent, those pickup games at UCLA certainly convinced them.
“He wanted to just s**t on anybody who thought they could play basketball in the city, and that’s what he did,” White said.
By the time Bryant’s career was over, he’d proven himself as one of the best ballers in L.A. history.
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