LOS ANGELES • Kobe Bryant says his passion for winning was shaped in part by the snub he received from the team that drafted him into the National Basketball Association (NBA) back in 1996.
He was just 17 and fresh out of high school when he sat down following the entry draft with head coach Dave Cowens of the Charlotte Hornets, who had selected him with the 13th overall pick.
After the draft, the Hornets traded the youngster to the Los Angeles Lakers for centre Vlade Divac.
"Charlotte never wanted me. Cowens told me he didn't want me. It wasn't a question of me even playing here," said Bryant, as his farewell tour with the Lakers arrived in Charlotte on Monday.
The five-time NBA champion said that the slight he received from Cowens, a former Boston Celtics star player, helped fuel his winning desire.
"I mean, I had grown up watching basketball. I knew who Dave Cowens was and was pretty excited," he said. "Then I was like, 'Oh, all right.' I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct."
On Monday, he drew thunderous applause throughout the evening from a sellout crowd of 19,632, the largest ever for a regular-season game at the Time-Warner Cable Arena.
Hornets owner, six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan, delivered a videotaped message, saying: "I just want to congratulate you on an unbelievable career.
"Most people don't realise you were drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, so that connects us with you. I've always been like a big brother to you, (and you're) like a little brother.
"Your next step in your next career is going to be something that I'm pretty sure you're going to have to figure out. From a competitive standpoint, I'm pretty sure you're just like me. You're going to have to find other ways to utilise that competitive drive."
Bryant finished with a team-high 20 points in the Lakers' 98-108 loss and said that he was moved by the cheers from the crowd.
"It's been like that in every city, fortunately," said the 37-year-old. "The journey started here. As brief as it was... so it has more value to it."
His farewell tour continues at Boston this morning (Singapore time), as the Lakers face their arch-rivals.