Jerry West Talked John Calipari Out Of Drafting Kobe

02.23.10 8 years ago 21 Comments

Today, ESPN Books released Roland Lazenby‘s latest book, Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon. While the majority of the book is about West growing up and his days as a Laker, the latter chapters revolve around West’s career as the Lakers GM. You know, the West that younger fans have experienced firsthand and have come to revere. There are great details about West as the mastermind behind assembling the early 2000’s Lakers dynasty, but this is probably the most revealing anecdote from p. 379:

First West had to take the huge gamble of trading veteran center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for their thirteenth pick in the draft. Then he learned that John Calipari, the coach of the New Jersey Nets, planned to take [Kobe] Bryant with the eighth pick before the Lakers could snare him at thirteen.

“Jerry wanted Kobe, so he basically called up and talked Cal out of drafting Kobe,” explained Hal Wiseel, who was with the Nets at the time. West encouraged the Bryant family to talk to Calipari and explain that their son really wanted to play for the Lakers. “He knew if we didn’t take him at eight, he’d drop to Charlotte, and he could make the deal with Charlotte,” Wissel recalled. “Cal was young in the league and, hey, it’s Jerry West on the phone.”

Wow. If you have won a fantasy sports league amongst your friends recently, you have probably pulled what we’ll now call, “A Logo.” That is, managing to talk your friend out of drafting someone because you want him with a later pick (although you most likely didn’t get his family involved). Even crazier is that it was John Calipari, the same guy under constant scrutiny for the caliber of players he has been able to bring to his programs. The same guy whose 2008 Memphis Tigers team had their entire season erased from the NCAA record books for recruiting violations of Derrick Rose. After conceding to Jerry West and losing out on Kobe, it’s not hard to see where Calipari has gotten his recruiting proficiency from.

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