The 1996 NBA Draft was an incredible showcase of talent that introduced the Association to a handful of basketball legends, another handful of solid contributors, and a whole bunch of swing and miss players. There are always uncertainties when it comes to young professional basketball players, especially in the era where there were no limits on rookie salaries. This era created overnight millionaires and that had widely different effects on each career path that started at the 1996 Draft.
Kobe Bryant is undeniably the greatest player taken in the draft and that is high praise considering there are two other MVP winners in his draft class. Twelve players were taken ahead of Kobe Bryant, who became the first guard in history to be drafted straight out of high school. Kobe’s excellence on the court was apparent at the age of 17, but risk averse teams decided to go with seemingly safer options.
The day before the draft, the Los Angeles Lakers traded for the 13th pick owned by the Charlotte Hornets. Five minutes before the selection, the Lakers called for the Hornets to choose Kobe Bryant. In exchange for Vlade Divac, the Lakers had a franchise player who would lead them to five NBA titles. One of the greatest drafts in NBA history produced champions, phenoms, and all-time greats. These players have had interesting lives and careers and here is what they are up to now.
12 Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is one of the players drafted before Kobe that helped transform the league. His incredible dribbling skills and shooting ability were routinely on display throughout his career, as were his struggles and lifestyle off the court. Those trends were highlighted with several accounts detailing Iverson’s recent financial struggles, but AI denied these claims. Last year, reports claim his Reebok trust fund may end up going to his ex-wife Tawanna, but he still remained charitable over the holiday season by hosting a high school holiday tournament.
11 Marcus Camby
For the better part of two decades, Marcus Camby did it all in the NBA. He played for contenders and cellar dwellars, eventually becoming 12th all-time in career blocks. Camby was the highest draft pick in Atlantic 10 history and was honored as an Atlantic 10 Legend Class of 2016. After earning over $130 million during the course of his NBA career, Camby has been keeping it relatively low key. Last year, it was rumored he could be making a comeback, but that has died down in the 2015-16 season.
10 Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Following his retirement from the NBA in 2008, Shareef Abdur-Rahim decided to go back and finish his college degree at the University of California. Abdur-Rahim left Cal after his freshman year, but graduated with a 3.8 GPA with a degree in sociology. In 2014, he reportedly left the Sacramento Kings front office after a draft night argument with Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. A video of his 12-year-old son Jabri displaying some serious skills at the John Lucas Camp showcased the talent of the next Abdur-Rahim generation.
9 Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury last played in the NBA during the 2008-09 season with the Boston Celtics. After some uStream antics where he ate vaseline to soothe a sore throat, Marbury took his talents to China rather than give up professional basketball. In China, his career has been rejuvenated, becoming one of the most decorated players in the history of the CBA and taking his Starbury brand global. He recently became a permanent citizen of China, announced the opening of his personal museum in Beijing, and appeared in his own musical, I am Marbury.
8 Ray Allen
Widely regarded as one of the most accurate three point and free throw shooters of all-time, Ray Allen is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. He last plied his trade in 2014 with the Miami Heat, falling just short of a third NBA Championship. Since his last game, he has routinely flirted with a comeback and in August suggested that he is not yet retired. He says that he plans on finishing his degree from UCONN, which would open the door to potential college coaching opportunities.
7 Antoine Walker
Over the course of his NBA career, Antoine Walker raked in more than $108 million thanks to his contracts. Just two years after his retirement, Walker declared Chapter Seven bankruptcy in 2010. Rather than silently serve as the poster child for broke athletes, he decided to team up with Bart Scott and Morgan Stanley to help the next generation of young athletes to prevent them from making the same mistakes as himself. He now advises young athletes to say “no” to friends and family in order to save their money.
6 Lorenzen Wright
Lorenzen Wright’s story is a tragic tale that began with him being selected 7th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. Following the death of his infant daughter in 2003, he established a scholarship foundation in her memory. That summer, he earned his college degree from the University of Memphis. Following his retirement, Wright was murdered after leaving his ex-wife’s house in Memphis. A 911 call from Wright’s phone was cut off and gunshots were heard, but his body was not found for nine days. The case remains unsolved.
5 Kerry Kittles
After playing all four years at Villanova, Kerry Kittles played his entire career except for the final season with the New Jersey Nets. Kittles earned a lifetime salary of $55 million, but was never able to make an All-Star Game appearance. Following his retirement in 2005, he returned to Villanova to complete his Masters of Business Administration. He founded IQ Sports Solutions and now also serves as a part-time scout for the Brooklyn Nets.
4 Samaki Walker
After playing ten seasons in the NBA for six different franchises, Samaki Walker decided to take his talents overseas. Having already earned an NBA Championship ring from his tenure with the LA Lakers, he decided to play in Russia. After a season in Russia, he moved on to Syria, Lebanon, China, and South Korea before playing his final season with Al-Jalaa Aleppo in Syria. The well traveled professional baller now runs P.R.I.M.E. a basketball talent development platform.
3 Erick Dampier
Erick Dampier was never a player that filled up the score sheet, but he was a decent contributor for the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks. In his final full season, he was a bench player for the Miami Heat as they fell in the Finals to his former teammates in Dallas. He retired having earned around $98 million over the course of his 12 NBA seasons and seems to be enjoying retirement. In October, he was inducted into the Mississippi State University Sports Hall of Fame at a football game against Kentucky. He also sat courtside for the Bulldogs win over Texas A&M earlier this month.
2 Todd Fuller
Over the course of five seasons in the NBA, Todd Fuller averaged 3.7 points per game. Thankfully, Fuller was able to rely on his skills off the court and is now a mathematics instructor. He graduated in 1996 from North Carolina State with a degree in applied mathematics and has been a frequent public speaker. After overseas stints in Spain, Poland, Greece, and Australia, Fuller earned his license to teach high school mathematics. His wife Elizabeth is also a teacher and Fuller sponsors the Todd Fuller Math Competition for Wake County, NC students.
1 Vitaly Potapenko
The Ukraine Train, Vitaly Potapenko, was selected immediately before Kobe Bryant by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Following his eight-season NBA career, Potapenko played briefly in Spain before setting his sights on a coaching job. He has successfully managed to climb up the coaching ranks from a position with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants all the way to his current assistant job with the Cavs. As a player-development coach, he works alongside David Blatt to maximize the considerable talents that the Cavs have at their disposal.