If the Sacramento Kings drafted Kobe Bryant, maybe they would have won five titles. Well, at least the Kings would have ended the NBA’s longest championship drought.
On April 28, 2020, former Sacramento Kings head coach and general manager Jerry Reynolds remembered the 1996 NBA Draft, and the Kings’ decision to draft Kobe Bryant if he had fallen to them at No. 14 overall.
Now, let us take a look at what would have happened if the Kings had drafted Bryant.
Kings Make the Playoffs: 1996-97
In the 1996 NBA Draft, the Kings selected Peja Stojakovic 14th overall, and he played two more years in Greece before coming to play for the Kings. However, if the Kings had drafted Bryant instead of Stojakovic, how would the Kings have fared?
With Kobe, the 1996-97 Kings stop their 14-year streak of below-.500 records and make their second consecutive postseason, but lose in the first round.
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Kings Keep Improving in Kobe’s First All-Star Year: 1997-98
Sacramento Kings starting shooting guard Kobe Bryant is on the rise, but the 1997-98 season has too strong of a Western Conference, as the Utah Jazz and Seattle SuperSonics continue to dominate.
Mitch Richmond, Kobe, and the Kings just cannot get above the hump in the first round, as they have another early exit in the postseason. Eddie Jordan is fired after not being able to win a playoff series.
Kobe shines in the lockout-shortened season: 1998-99
Kobe is finally in the running for the Most Valuable Player award, as the Kings smartly swapped Richmond for Chris Webber in a four-player trade. With former Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors coach Rick Adelman in his first year, C-Webb, Vlade Divac, and Kobe lead the way.
First Kings NBA championship since 1951: 1999-00
Everybody can rejoice — the Kings are champions!
Webber, the Finals MVP, Divac, and Kobe each win their first championship. The Kings take down Shaquille O’Neal, Stojakovic, and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the first round and then dispatch the Phoenix Suns and Blazers en route to the 2000 Finals victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Back-to-back championships: 2000-01
This time around, Kobe and company go undefeated in the playoffs. Kobe is the Finals MVP, as the Kings take down Bryant’s draftmate Allen Iverson.
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The Kings three-peat: 2001-02
In Mike Bibby‘s first year with the team, he, Kobe, Christie, Webber, Divac make up the starting five for the Kings, as Sacramento becomes just the fourth franchise to accomplish the vaunted three-peat.
Also, a highlight from the postseason was the Kings shooting a whopping 27 free throws in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers.
The Playoff Struggles: 2002-03 to 2005-06
With Webber losing some efficiency, Kobe and Kevin Martin are unable to coexist enough to make up for the lost scoring. The Kings make the Western Conference Finals in 2003, but they do not make it back the following two seasons.
Part II Preview
Be sure to keep an eye out for Part II of “Kobe as a King,” where you will be able to see what happens in the twilight of his NBA career with the Kings. Here is a taste:
A Downward Trend: 2006-07 to 2008-09
Kobe Demands a Trade: 2009-10
Kobe Retires Early: 2010-11
Kobe’s Two Seasons Away from the Game: 2011-12 to 2012-13
Kobe Attempts a Michael Jordan-like Comeback: 2013-14 to 2014-15
Kobe has a Last Farewell with the Sacramento Kings: 2015-16