Kobe Bryant's annual Garden variety visit last Friday triggered me to re-examine the draft of 1996. Many people have gone straight from high school to Hollywood and become overnight sensations . . . after countless years of dejection and rejection. Kobe actually morphed into a Lakers' legend almost on cue.

Jerry West was not the sole team executive who recognized his potential greatness, but he was the only one prepared to risk his reputation on a 17-year-old. All it took were two workouts, one, really.

In the second, defensive demon Michael Cooper, who had just retired, saw Kobe "kick his fanny and not want to stop," West recounted the other day. "He wanted more. That's how competitive he was even then.