The legendary career of Kobe Bryant is all but over, with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar having just one game left on the NBA hardwood before riding off into retirement for good.
The Black Mamba has been one of the best players in the entire league year in, year out, and has left a footprint on the game of basketball that will be felt for a long time to come.
With Bryant about to leave the game, a user on Reddit pooled all the pre-draft chatter about Bryant .Let's take a look at what was said about the Lower Merion high school star around the time of the '96 Draft.
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Kobe hasn't always been a definite superstar or an obvious future Hall of Fame caliber talent. Before Bryant was drafted in 1996, some even thought that he was making a mistake by declaring for the NBA straight out of high school.
A fair few people said that the Mamba would have been better suited going to college for a year or two, saying that Kevin Garnett - who was drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves straight out of high school - was a far better player than Bryant was at that stage.
"I think (Bryant's early entry) is a total mistake," Celtics director of basketball development Jon Jennings said to Sports Illustrated in 1996.
"Garnett was the best high school player I ever saw, and I wouldn't have advised him to jump to the NBA. And Kobe is no Kevin Garnett."
Jennings wasn't the only one critical of Kobe's decision, as NBA scouting director Marty Blake also didn't rate the Mamba as highly as Kobe rated himself.
"He's kidding himself. Sure he'd like to come out. I'd like to be a movie star. He's not ready."
However, there were a lot of teams that were infatuated with Kobe, saying that he absolutely blew them away with his pre-draft workouts where he schooled players on their NBA roster.
Both the Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey Nets could see how good Bryant was.
"If you watched the workouts, you would say either this kid was taught to fool us in these workouts or he's ridiculous," John Calipari said at the time. Apparently, Kobe was so good that he tore apart former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Michael Cooper in a workout.
"He just destroyed (Cooper). It was unbelievable," Lakers public relations staffer Raymond Ritter said. You're talking about Michael Cooper, one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the game, and he just made him look silly. It was breathtaking to watch a kid do that. He had no regard for this being Michael Cooper."
"Best workout I've ever seen. He's better than anybody we have on the team right now. Let's go." - Jerry West.
Fast forward 20 years and Kobe Bryant is now retiring as one of the greatest players in league history. Some saw it coming, others didn't. The Lakers will be forever thankful for their draft night trade with the Charlotte Hornets.