What If…The Charlotte Hornets Never Traded Kobe Bryant?

Hindsight is always 20/20, but it proves even more gut wrenching when you're talking about saving a city's franchise.

In the 1996 NBA draft, the now relocated Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant with their 13th selection overall.  They would eventually trade his draft rights away to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac.

Looking back now, the Hornets obviously would never have done the deal, though Bryant insistence that he not play for Charlotte was going to override any decision the Hornets made.  Still, what could have been?

First you have to understand the love affair between the Hornets and the city of Charlotte.  Getting an NBA franchise in 1988, the Hornets didn't go long until they became on of the most popular teams in the NBA.  In fact, in the 1996-97 season, the Hornets ranked first in the league in attendance.

Prior to that season, the Hornets did have an obvious need for a center.  Trading away star big man Alonzo Mourning the season before to the Heat had left a void in the post.  They did get Anthony Mason from the Knicks, but lack of a big man became the issue. 

So that combined with Kobe's teenage lust for the big city kept the Hornets away from a future superstar.

If the Hornets could have worked something out with Bryant, their '96-97 starting lineup would have probably looked something like this:

C Matt Geiger (came over from the Heat in the Mourning deal)

F Anthony Mason

F Glen Rice

G Kobe Bryant

G Muggsy Bogues

Not a bad lineup considering Rice had his best year statistically in that season, earning him Second Team All-NBA honors.

If Bryant had stayed in Charlotte, the local fans might not have completely abandoned owner George Shinn for his questionable moves.  Alonzo Mourning was a big fan favorite in the Queen City, as was Larry Johnson, and Shinn de...

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