Kobe, Iverson, Nash ... the draft that came to replace Jordan

24 years have passed since one of the best drafts in history, the one that marked the post Jordan era and led a generation. Iverson, Nash ... and Kobe, of course.

Of all the drafts that have been throughout history, few have such a close emotional relationship for the hobbyist as that of 1996. It is the 24th anniversary of a lottery that was accompanied by some of the great names of the 21st century, with a horde of extraordinary young players who was the protagonist in the following 20 years, dominating a competition that waits for no one and which by then was forging the way to replace a Jordan who, at 33 years old, had just won his fourth champion ring. He did it in that year of redemption, after the elimination of 1995 against the Magic and a season of 72 victories that crowned him even more if possible, also joining the MVP of the season, the All Star and the Finals. However, his eternal (and eternalized) figure was not going to last forever, and the void that he could leave had to be replaced with new stories and innovative protagonists who were capable of filling such a space.

To tell the truth, the feeling that an era was ending was not as pressing as it was a year later, with the 1996-97 ending with another ring for the Bulls and the open war between the Chicago leadership, with Jerry Krause at the helm. head, and the squad and their coach, with Jordan as a benchmark. At the end of that season, the Wolves extended the 126-year, $ 126 million contract to Garnett heralded a lockout in late 1997-98, and the animosity between Jordan and Krause, coupled with the first stoppage in history in the that the campaign would have to be reduced, it was the end of a decade marked by the dominance of Jordan and the absence of that vertical and direct game that the Showtime of the Lakers in the 80s would represent and that would not occur again until that new generation of the 1996 draft took control of the League.

It is not difficult to go for that draft when looking for a substitute for Jordan. Neither Garnett, who landed in 1995, nor Duncan in 1997, was accompanied by big names that foreshadowed a bright future. Although we would also lie if we said that Jordan's substitute was taken for granted. Only Jerry West, that man tanned in a thousand battles and who knows them all, knew how to see in a decisive and shameless escort from Lower Marion High School the jewel in his crown and the man who could dominate the League. Evil tongues say that he didn't even inform the Hornets of whom they had to select in the draft until just before he got there for fear they would change their minds. Kobe Bryant arrived via transfer to the Lakers without ever training with the team that selected him and setting Vlade Divac heading outside the city from which he never wanted to leave.

Some names that marked a generation

The truth, of course, is that Kobe was not then chosen by the mainstream media. He barely participated in the Del Harris rotation in his first season, earning some playoff spotlight and adding four outrageous airballs in the Western semifinals against the Jazz. Allen Iverson was the great attraction of that draft: chosen at number 1, he copied television highlights and scored a crossover for history before Jordan himself, which for many was even taken as disrespect. Kobe did not take long to emerge and was All Star in his second year, but Iverson was, in his early stage, the reference of a horde of players who, many coming from the street, contrasted with a pampered Bryant, posh and accompanied by some luxuries who never had someone like The Answer, who became a cultural reference for the League.

Obviously, Iverson and Kobe weren't the only ones to appear in that draft. Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury and Ray Allen dominated the top 5 alongside Iveron. Antoine Walker, Lorenzen Wright, Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker and Erick Dampier were chosen from positions 6 to 10. And there was still time for Todd Fuller or Vitaly Potapenko to be chosen ahead of Kobe, two unlikely elections that were not long understood term but they were also amazing at the time. A certain Stojakovic was chosen after Bryant, and we keep looking at each other we see old acquaintances like Steve Nash (pick 15), Jermanie O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Derek Fisher, with some interesting second round with people like Shandon Anderson, finalist with the Jazz in 1997 and 1998.

Of course, we are talking about an incredibly talented generation. 10 of the mentioned players reached the All Star, Camby was the Best Defender of the NBA (2007), Kerry Kittles reached the Finals twice with the Nets (2002 and 2003), Iverson, once with the Sixers (2001) and Iglauskas, another with LeBron's Cavs (2007). Between Kobe and Iverson they achieved six top scorer titles, and both, along with Steve Nash, were MVPs, being this the only one to repeat. Camby won titles as top rebounder and capper, Iverson for steals, Nash for assists, best quintets, best defensive quintets, stars of his franchises ... a long list of successes monopolize five players in terms of rings: Samaki Walker with the Lakers, Ray Allen with the Celtics, Antoine Walker with the Heat and Kobe and Fisher, with five per head, those who have won the most in the entire 21st century along with Tim Duncan, who kept the same number.

Kobe, the great reference

What is clear is that Kobe has ended up being the great reference of that generation. Although there have been other long runs such as those of Steve Nash and Derek Fisher, it was the Los Angeles guard who ended up running as the true substitute for Jordan. Iverson dominated the beginnings of the 21st century, but I cannot go further; The same was true for an extremely talented Marbury who found more success in China than in the United States. But it was Kobe who, in his eagerness to overcome Jordan and imitate his movements, dominated the era immediately after that of His Airness, being the best player in the first half of the new century and dominating even after the arrival of LeBron and company, which came in 2003 in another draft for history.

The apotheosis of this draft came in 2001. Iverson and Kobe measured each other in the Finals and both, along with Marbury, starred in one of the best All-Stars that is remembered. An impossible mission for the Sixers, who fell to the Lakers in five games. It was the moment when it was shown that the new generation had definitely taken a step forward, leaving behind the Finalists of the previous year, some Pacers that belonged to some 90 more and more left behind. The Sixers have never been that close to success again and Iverson averaged 27.6 points and 6.1 assists in the 12 years he spent in a team that, despite Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, has never repeated a reference like that. hers. Iverson is, by influence, the second most important player in that draft, although by career he is worse than Steve Nash or even Ray Allen. And better, yes, than a Marbury who never did justice to his immeasurable talent.

The 1996 draft was one of the best in history, but it was also Kobe's draft. If we compare this lottery with that of 1996 and 2003, we are facing one of the best in history, and the three mentioned have among their ranks illustrious names that lead them, be it Jordan, Kobe and LeBron. And although the forward has been able to end up surpassing the Black Mamba (or not?), It was the guard who ran as the first great heir to a Jordan whom he traced perfectly, imposing himself on the way to many players ( Vince Carter, Grant Hill) who wanted to inherit his crown. A draft that changed the course of history, that has brought players to the Hall of Fame (Iverson before, Kobe now) and that has been the reference of a whole generation. 24 years already ... Almost nothing.

Photos from as.com
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