NBA, NBA Draft / Feb 23, 2010 / 6:00 pm

Jerry West Talked John Calipari Out Of Drafting Kobe

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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  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    The way I always heard the story, Kobe’s team of “handlers” bullied the Nets out of taking Kobe because they wanted him to play in a major market and knew the Lakers had the deal worked out with Charlotte. They allegedly told NJ that if the Nets drafted Kobe he’d never suit up for them.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    this is an OLD story

  • http://bt.davka.info/ SparkyJ23

    I Remember at the time hearing Kobe would refuse to suit up for anyone other than the Lakers

  • LakeShow84

    I heard that too AB.. he said he’d never play for the Nets if they took him..

    Sorry Net fans but to us Laker fans, it was f#%king beautiful lol we got 4 chips out of that shit.. bigups Jerry West!

  • LakeShow84

    @ Sparky

    I think it was really only the Nets he refused to play for.. but i imagine he wouldnt have liked it much in Charlotte either lol

  • Adam Flomenbaum

    @AB – that’s probably what really happened – there’s always the real story behind the story, in the same way that William Wesley rules the world. I can imagine Kobe’s “handlers” did do this but Jerry West was definitely pulling some strings, especially because of just how highly he thought of Kobe at the time. Jerry probably bullied the handlers who bullied the nets.

  • LakeShow84

    Chips BABY!!


  • Got’em

    Why don’t they have a Kobe’s in a NJ Nets colorway? Mamba better say in LA or I will denounce my thrown as king of zamunda!

  • Ross

    What a bunch of losers. They all missed out on Todd Fuller.



  • K

    The bigger eye opener for me was the quote in there about magic aging sex with 300 PEOPLE a year not women but people.

  • JJ


  • Memphis Tigers

    Memphis didn’t get their season wiped away for recruiting violations. The NCAA said he could play, then the test people said he cheated and since Rose refuseed to talk with the NCAA, the ruled him ineligible. Never were any recruiting violations on the men’s program.

  • Adam Flomenbaum

    @ K – yeah that was a shocker, quoted yesterday by TrueHoop I think. From what i’ve read, the book is great and gives a great background of West.

    @ Heckler – there have been variations of the story but not this exact one. I really look forward to reading your new basketball magazine!

  • East West


  • Big Island

    Kobe’s a bitch.

  • jay

    actually with the old rules in place it was kobe to the lakers or bust and he would have went to play for coach k at duke…than i hate to say this the 1999 huskies would have never won the title that year!

  • SaggyWheels

    @2 i never heard it so how bout you back off a little

  • K Dizzle

    Now known as Pullin the Rubio to Wolves fans…or Pullin the Vasquez to Magic fans…except the Nets were smart enough to listen.
    If Calipari had any brains back then, he drafts Kobe anyways, then trades him to the highest bidder for a whole bunch o stuff…

  • Ekstor

    If I recall correctly… they ended up drafting Kerry Kittles instead… how do you like that lopsided comparison?

  • thom adams

    which is why Cal would be foolish to take the nets job on a hope and a prayer of luring lebron from cleveland and drafting wall…

    if college ball is all recruiting, the league is all drafting.

    Just like pitino who is rumored to be interested in the nets? after he admittedly made the biggest mistake of his life going to boston thinking he was about to land Tim Duncan.

    i’d still take a 38 million dollar FU anyday…