1996–97 Los Angeles Lakers season
The 1996–97 NBA season was the Los Angeles Lakers' 49th season in the National Basketball Association, and 37th in the city of Los Angeles. During the offseason, the Lakers signed free agent All-Star center Shaquille O'Neal to a seven-year, $120 million deal, and acquired high school star Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets, who selected him with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft. Other offseason acquisitions included signing former Lakers guard Byron Scott, and free agents Jerome Kersey and Sean Rooks. In January, they traded Cedric Ceballos back to the Phoenix Suns for Robert Horry, who won two championships with the Houston Rockets. O'Neal finished fourth in the league in scoring averaging 26.2 points per game, but played just 51 games due to a knee injury.
During the final month of the season in a game against the Dallas Mavericks on April 6, the Lakers held the Mavs to just two points in the third quarter in an 87–80 win. It was the fewest points in a quarter of a game in NBA history. The Lakers finished second in the Pacific Division with a 56–26 record. O'Neal and Eddie Jones were both selected for the 1997 NBA All-Star Game. However, O'Neal did not play due to injury. Bryant was selected to the All-Rookie Second Team. He also won the Slam Dunk Contest during the All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.
In the first round of the postseason, the Lakers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in four games. However, in the semifinals, they lost in five games to the Utah Jazz. Following the season, Scott went overseas and signed with the Greek Basket League giants Panathinaikos for the 1997–98 season, while Kersey signed as a free agent with the Seattle SuperSonics.
Before he was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, the 17-year-old Bryant had made a lasting impression on then-Lakers general manager Jerry West, who immediately foresaw potential in Bryant's basketball ability during pre-draft workouts. He went on to state that Bryant's workouts against former Lakers players and then assistant coaches Michael Cooper, and Larry Drew were the best he had ever seen. Immediately after the draft, Bryant expressed that he did not wish to play for the Hornets and wanted to play for the Lakers instead. Fifteen days later, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac to the Hornets for the young Kobe Bryant.
|1996–97 Los Angeles Lakers roster|
Kobe's rookie season
During his first season, Bryant mostly came off the bench behind guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. Initially, he played limited minutes, but as the season continued, he began to see some more playing time. He earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan-favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest.
Record vs. opponents
West First Round
West Conference Semifinals
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game|
Awards and records
- Shaquille O'Neal, All-NBA Third Team
- Kobe Bryant, NBA All-Rookie Team 2nd Team
- Travis Knight, NBA All-Rookie Team 2nd Team