3. The 1996 Tryout
Kobe Bryant was as well known in the NBA World for his competitiveness in all aspects of his game as he was for the success he had on the court.
His June 1996 workout with the Phoenix Suns prior to the draft is about as famous in regard to his desire to be great as any other individual story regarding his NBA career.
Almost now as much legend as it is fact, the Suns were slated with the 15th pick in the NBA Draft and Kobe was expected to fall within that range. As such, Phoenix set up a workout for him and several other players.
Kobe worked out for the Suns on June 12th and 13th, 1996. Noted as a potential “smaller” Penny Hardaway, his competitive fire was undeniable, even as a 17-year-old who had to have his parents sign off on forms just for him to even attend such camps.
In the workout sessions, the just-high-school-graduated-kid asked what the other really good players had done in certain drills and then asked to run those drills again and again until he himself had set the new bar.
Even at such a young age he knew that he could be the best, and he wanted to be.
Fortunately, the Suns took notice. They realized that he had a determination that was second-to-no one and that he could potentially be as good as his inner fire was driving him to be.
Unfortunately, not only did they never have the chance to select him (Charlotte took him with the 13th overall pick, two spots ahead of Phoenix), he never wanted to play for any other franchise other than the Los Angeles Lakers and found a way to manipulate his way to the purple and gold.
Certainly things didn’t work out so bad for the Suns and their pick of Steve Nash in the end – although they did trade away their own future Hall of Famer after the 1997-98 season and had to re-acquire him via free agency seven years later.
Once again, who knows what would have been had Kobe slipped to the Suns at 15, although to know that he did at least wear a Phoenix Suns practice jersey for two days during work outs, is going to have to be close enough.