Kobe says best decision he made in his 20-year career came very early

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West, left, and coach Del Harris, introduce Kobe Bryant on July 10, 1996.
Steve Grayson/WireImage

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant will retire after this season, his 20th in the NBA. It’s hard to remember now that when Bryant opted to enter the NBA straight out of high school in 1996, it was a controversial decision.

It’s even harder to remember that he didn’t exactly burst onto the NBA scene. He averaged just 15.5 minutes as a rookie under then-Lakers coach Del Harris. And it wasn’t until his third season that Bryant became a full-time starter. 

Looking back on it, Bryant told reporters during Saturday’s All-Star media session in Toronto that he made the right decision to enter the NBA straight of high school. In fact, he said of the decision that made him the first-ever guard taken out of high school that it was the best one he made of his 20-year career. Via USA Today:

"The best decision (I ever made was) coming straight to the NBA and skipping college. That’s it – the best one."

Players such as Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James successfully made the jump from high school to the NBA. However, since 2006, the league has had in place a rule that forces players to be out of high school for at least one year before entering the NBA Draft. 

Players who likely could have jumped straight to the NBA such as Kevin Durant and Andrew Wiggins, instead spent one year at college. Durant went to Texas and Wiggins spent one season at Kansas. Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay actually bypassed college and played one season in China.

Bryant said forcing players to go to college, or elsewhere, for a year isn’t exactly fair, but he also cautioned that making the leap to the NBA from high school isn’t for everybody.

"You have high school players that go to college, stay for four years and come out and they’re not ready; you got certain high school players that skip college and they’re ready. So I think it depends on the mentors that you have, it depends on the internal motivation or spirit of the kid himself. Ultimately it depends on the teachers that you have and the mentors that you have. You can go to college for four years and get horrible mentorship and be worse off than a kid who came to the league at 17."

It is interesting that Bryant believes his decision to enter the draft straight of high school was his best decision, as opposed perhaps to his decision to stay with the Lakers and call off his demand for a trade in 2007. Can anybody right about now imagine Bryant retiring in any other uniform than Lakers’ gold and purple?