The mid-1990’s were a pre-internet age of sorts. America Online was the dominant internet service. People used 56k modems. We got used to computers dialing out with fax machine ring tones. There was no wikipedia. YouTube wasn’t available then, but if it was, the 1996 draft would be different. Kobe Bryant would not have lasted to #13.
Kobe Bryant, in the summer of ’96, had multiple workouts with teams. Some of the teams who watched him, were the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, and even the Boston Celtics. The photo of him wearing a Celtics shirt will make you cringe.
Just to give you an idea of what a 14-year old Kobe Bryant looked like, here’s a sample:
In one highlight video, you see everything. He changes direction. He passes on the fly. He slithers through defenses. He has a jumpshot. He has body control. He could not be stopped. Sure, that may be an exhibition game played with no interest in defense, but the size, athleticism, and skill level were all there. Fortunately, he had a good understanding of NBA life and a relentless drive to be the best player he could ever be. Could you imagine being a 14-year old, with those basketball skills on the floor, and then getting better? As Laker fans, we didn’t have to imagine it. We watched it.
Now, fast forward to the NBA draft of 2014. The Lakers of the past season weren’t as great as the 1995 team, which included Nick Van Exel, Sedale Threatt, Elden Campbell, Vlade Divac, and Eddie Jones. At least that roster had two upcoming All-Stars. The current team has zero.
The Lakers have a lot of interest in the players in the draft. Some of the standouts are Noah Vonleh, Rodney Hood, and Marcus Smart. There’s a lot being written about these three players with resounding positivity, and deservedly so.
But, has anyone else taken a look at what these guys looked like in high school as well?
Julius Randle may slip to the Lakers, because other players are being hyped up over him in the lottery. Imagine, this is the guy that could end up a Laker. These are highlights from his sophomore year in high school.
You see it again. There, is a 6’7″ 240lb. player, showing the body control, the resemblance of a jumpshot, some ball-handling, and aggression to the rim. He may not have the skill level of Kobe Bryant by age, but that’s an impact player who was ranked top-3 coming out of high school.
The Lakers need an offensive punch with that kind of firepower in the front-line. That guy used to be Gasol, but it’s not anymore.
Laker fans have different ideas who the #7 pick might be. The last three times the Lakers drafted in the lottery, they won. Those guys were Eddie Jones, Kobe Bryant, and Andrew Bynum. The importance of the lottery pick cannot be stressed enough. As long as the franchise finds the best of the given names; Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, and Dario Saric, they may find a future franchise player. That guy won’t be Kobe Bryant, but it may be someone who ends up as the face of the franchise for the years to come.
We’re just waiting for the next franchise player to don the Laker jersey.