CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There's more than one side to every story, and that axiom felt especially true Monday night, when Kobe Bryant played his final game in Charlotte against the organization that drafted him 13th overall in 1996.
Bryant never played for the Hornets, as he was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers for center Vlade Divac. The rest, as they say, is history -- and it was quite a glorious history for the Lakers, who won five titles during Bryant's 20 years with the squad.
However, Bryant has long maintained that the Hornets didn't even want him in the first place when they drafted him, and he reiterated that point Monday.
"Charlotte never wanted me," Bryant said after scoring 20 points on 5-of-20 shooting during a 108-98 loss on Monday. "[Hornets coach Dave] Cowens told me he didn't want me. It wasn't a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already, a couple small forwards already. So it wasn't like I would be off the bench much. "
What was Bryant's reaction when Cowens, a legendary member of the Boston Celtics, made that alleged remark?
"I mean, I had grown up watching basketball," Bryant said. "I knew who Dave Cowens was and [was] pretty excited [to play for him]. Then I was like, 'Oh, all right.' I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct."
The other side to the story -- one cited in many publications through the years and summarized by the Charlotte Observer in 2014 -- is that Bryant's agent at the time, Arn Tellem, and Lakers management had worked the angles and struck deals to ensure that Bryant would become a Laker no matter what.
However, Bryant again said that wasn't the case, and that he ended up with the Lakers because the Hornets didn't want him.
"Cowens told me, 'We don't really need you here,'" Bryant said.
Cowens disputes Bryant's recollection of the events, according to a Boston Globe story published online Tuesday.
“I’d never say anything like that to a player,” Cowens told the Globe by phone Tuesday. “I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. It wasn’t about him not being able to play for us. It was just [a deal] was already worked out."