Nick Van Exel says he once gave Kobe Bryant tapes of Michael Jordan and never saw them again

Brad Sullivan
3 Min Read

Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Van Exel indicated that he once lent Kobe Bryant videotapes of the legendary Michael Jordan and never got them back.

Van Exel’s comments about his former teammate are part of the Hulu documentary series “Legacy: The True Story of the L.A. Lakers.”

Exactly when Van Exel lent Bryant the tapes is uncertain, though it’s likely that it took place sometime from 1996 to 1998.

That’s because those were the last two years of Van Exel’s five-season stint with the Lakers. He was drafted by the Lakers in the second round of the 1993 NBA Draft with the 37th overall pick.

Kobe Arrives

Bryant was acquired by the Lakers after being chosen by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft. Over the next 20 seasons, he established an iconic career that concluded in 2016.

The idea that Bryant would seek to closely follow in the footsteps of Jordan isn’t unique among NBA players, given the latter’s own Hall of Fame career. One current Laker, LeBron James, has spoken in the past about his reverence for Jordan, which has included wearing the No. 23 during the course of his career.

Bryant’s own praise for Jordan was captured over the years and helps explain why Bryant sought to mimic everything about Jordan.

One thing that Jordan, James and Van Exel lacked in comparison to Bryant was an NBA bloodline. In Bryant’s case, his father had played for three NBA teams before heading overseas to compete at the international level.

Those genetics didn’t necessarily guarantee that Bryant would elevate his game to such a lofty level. To make that happen, Bryant used his own inner drive and work ethic to forge a memorable career that culminated with his election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Bryant’s shocking death in a January 2020 helicopter crash prevented him from responding to Van Exel’s claim about the missing videotapes.

Yet, Van Exel’s anecdote isn’t one that’s left him bitter. Instead, he’s left with the memories of having played a part in helping Bryant get the most out of his ample potential.

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Brad is a freelance writer for, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.