The 1996 NBA Draft was one of the topics discussed during Allen Iverson's appearance on the Geto Boys Reloaded podcast. The Hall of Famer used Kobe Bryant as an example of how crazy good the Class of 1996 was.
"We had the greatest draft ever,"said Iverson. "Kobe was 13, so we are gonna do it like that. That lets you know how crazy the draft was. If he 13, you already know how crazy the draft is. "
The hip-hop legends reminded Iverson that Kobe came straight out of high school and wasn't scouted well enough by NBA teams. The Answer dismissed those arguments and made a stunning statement. "If I was the 76ers, I would have picked him," Iverson said of Bryant.
It was nice of Iverson to speak highly of Kobe. We know how A.I. had massive love and respect for the late Black Mamba, but when you talk about the 1996 NBA Draft, everyone knew that Iverson would go first overall, and if the teams would do the draft again, Philly would still have picked A.I. and not regretted the decision.
The Sixers badly needed a point guard during that time, and the top two prospects at the position were Iverson and Stephon Marbury. Choosing between the two wasn't that difficult, and the Sixers made the correct choice as Iverson put the franchise back on the basketball map.
Iverson won Rookie of the Year honors in 1997, averaging 23.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game. He went on to lead the league in scoring four times and was named league MVP in 2001 when he led the Sixers to the NBA Finals, where they lost to Kobe and the Lakers.
Meanwhile, everyone knew how talented Kobe was heading into the draft. However, he was coming from high school, and at that time, only a few made a successful leap from prep to pro. Not that teams didn't believe that Kobe could do it, but most lottery teams needed to pick players that would turn the fortune of their franchises immediately.
Jerry West saw Kobe as a diamond in the rough when he traded Vlade Divac for the high school star. Bryant wasn't an immediate star like Iverson, as he had to earn his spot in the Lakers' starting five. But when he got it, there was no stopping him from getting everything else he wanted.
Other players drafted in 1996 were Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jermaine O'Neal, Peja Stojakovic, and Antoine Walker. The class produced 10 All-Stars, and eight players from the draft were also named to at least one All-NBA team. Iverson, Kobe, and Nash were inducted into the Hall of Fame.