The Los Angeles Lakers made a bet on Draft Night in 1996. They traded center Vlade Divac to the Hornets for the No. 13 pick, Kobe Bryant. Five championships later, there’s no doubt about their ecstasy over the bet.
Hall of Famer Allen Iverson was also in the same project with Kobe. While at the time he was easily the best player, Kobe took over in just a few years.
Despite all the rivalry they had on the court, the respect they shared was immense. Iverson always expressed his admiration for Kobe, and since his passing, he has taken every opportunity he can to congratulate his late friend.
In the recent documentary Ready or Not: The ’96 Draft, Iverson said that Kobe was one of the greatest of all time. He said, « I feel like the greatest players to ever play are Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Wanting to be great, legendary, talked about after it’s all over. You can’t have a basketball conversation without Kobe Bryant. There’s no way. He’s definitely on the Mount Rushmore of basketball.
"You can't have a basketball conversation without Kobe Bryant. … He's definitely on that Mount Rushmore of basketball players."
A.I. reflects on the legacy of Kobe Bryant
(via @NBATV’s Ready or Not: The '96 NBA Draft) pic.twitter.com/gQ36X7y9eg
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 12, 2021
He also added that Kobe was the best to ever play alongside Michael Jordan. Iverson has played against both of them in his career, as well as many other legendary players. So, he thinks they are two of the best he’s seen.
A look back at the close relationship between Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson
Kobe and AI shared a mutual admiration. In fact, both also have a Players ‘Tribune article dedicated to each other.
The first was by Kobe in 2017, which was titled, Obsession is Natural. He explained how he became obsessed with Iverson after impressing Kobe with his superb performances early in their careers.
He wrote, « I obsessively read every article and book I could find on AI. I obsessively watched every game he played in, going back to the IUPU All-American game. I obsessively studied every one of his hits and every one of his fights.
Then last year, Iverson dedicated an article to Kobe on August 24, which is also Mamba Day. It was a moving letter to his late friend, titled Dear Kobe.
The article was a tearjerker, which ended with Iveson writing, « I don’t really know how I’m supposed to close a letter like this. I don’t really know how to say goodbye to an NBA legend, a father, a husband, a friend… All I know is… I love you brother.