Why Kobe Bryant and Jerry Buss Will Be Tied Together Forever

Kobe Bryant and Jerry Buss formed a partnership over the last 17 years that will undoubtedly tie them together forever. The pair have seen their fair share of success, but also suffered some setbacks throughout their union.

Back in the spring of 1996, Bryant was an incredibly gifted high school prospect who had declared for the NBA draft. At the time, the idea of acquiring players without collegiate basketball experience was seen as iffy at best.

Kevin Garnett had been drafted straight out of high school the season prior, but the idea of pairing teenagers with grown men was considered risky.

And yet, once Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West saw the skinny Bryant in pre-draft workouts, he immediately fell in love with him. The Lakers acquired Shaquille O’Neal via free agency and then traded up in the draft to acquire the high school sensation with the blessing of the owner.

Buss and West both loved Bryant’s skills, as well as his competitive spirit.

When Lakers head coach Del Harris sought for the rookie to earn his playing time, the owner and general manager made requests for the exciting player to participate in games.

I covered this topic in a review of the O’Neal and Bryant dynamic based on the big man’s autobiography Shaq Talks Back. Here’s a quick snippet of the post:

Harris was intent on having Kobe Bryant earn his playing time by forcing him to integrate his game with that of teammates and also working hard on defense. While the veterans appreciated the gesture, management offered a different opinion. Jerry Buss and Jerry West wanted for the young prodigy to get some playing time in order to grow and mature as a player.

Bryant’s insertion into the lineup created a rift with his teammates. The gifted guard broke plays, made mistakes by attempting spectacular plays and always looked to shoot the ball.


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