Kobe Bryant All That’s Left of NBA’s Greatest Draft Ever

Kobe Bryant now stands alone, the last member of a storied 1996 NBA rookie class, trying to stave off the fate that has befallen every one of his draft-day peers.

Working off two serious injuries, the 36-year-old Bryant—who was drafted 13th overall—should be a relic of yesteryear, a living, breathing keepsake basketball brainiacs remember fondly as they try to reconcile the past with the present. Instead, he is an active symbol whose defiant displays are, for the time being, still bridging the gap between two, maybe three, different eras of basketball.

How much longer he'll be able to function as this time-thwarting token remains unclear. A lot could go wrong between now and when Bryant retires.

When that time comes—forcibly or voluntarily—that's it. Whenever Bryant walks or limps away, the 1996 draft's star power goes with him.


The Fallen

It wasn't always this way. It wasn't even supposed to be this way. Not yet, at least.

Steve Nash (No. 15 overall) approached the 2014-15 campaign with every intention of playing at least one more year. It was both fitting and ironic that he and Bryant would try to battle Father Time together. But then their fight together abruptly ended.

Days ahead of the regular season, Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding brought word that a 40-year-old Nash would miss the entire year due to "recurring nerve damage" in his back. This latest setback is likely a career-ender since Nash has appeared in just 65 games over the last two seasons and even hinted at 2014-15 being his swan song.

If this is, in fact, it for Nash, it's an unbecoming end for one of the game's all-time greats. He leaves on a low note and without a championship but having done enough to ensure his place in the history books. The two-time MVP ranks third all-time in assists handed out, behind only Jason Kidd and John Stockton, and ...

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