EL SEGUNDO (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers chose Larry Nance Jr. with the 27th overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night, only to learn the Wyoming forward sent out a critical tweet about Kobe Bryant three years ago.
Nance has since deleted the tweet, which was widely shared on social media immediately after the Lakers selected Nance with their second first-round pick.
“Gee I sure hope Kobe can keep his hands to himself in Denver this time..” Nance tweeted on May 1, 2012, adding the hashtag “rapist.”
Bryant was arrested and accused of sexual assault in Colorado in 2003. The criminal charges were dropped a year later, and Bryant settled a civil lawsuit.
General manager Mitch Kupchak found out about the tweet after making his choice, but he didn’t allow it to shake his opinion of Nance as a valuable acquisition for the Lakers.
“I’ve spoken to Larry Nance Jr., and I’m not in a position to really share information, but it is something that (Nance and Bryant) will have to discuss amongst the two of them,” Kupchak said. “My understanding, it’s something that happened years ago, and in today’s world, things don’t go away, which doesn’t make it any less offensive because it was said three or four years ago.”
Nance also has tweeted repeatedly about his admiration for Bryant, the Lakers’ franchise scoring leader.
Bryant, who was on vacation in Costa Rica this week, will be 37 years old in the fall when he returns for his 20th season with the Lakers. He is the third-leading scorer in NBA history with 32,482 points.
Nance is a tremendous leaper and a defensive force, winning Mountain West Conference honors as its top defensive player. He averaged 16.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a senior, and he impressed the Lakers during draft workouts earlier this month.
Nance’s father is a 13-year NBA veteran who made three All-Star teams and won the first Slam Dunk Contest in 1984. The Lakers’ new forward said there were tears in his father’s eyes when the choice was announced.
“He’s my biggest fan, biggest critic,” Nance said. “I love the way he could play above the rim and all his aerial acrobatics, but at the same time, he gave me his mind. Basketball IQ is the one thing that I learned from him and will continue to learn from him.”
Nance recovered from a torn knee ligament during his career in Laramie, and he still fights through Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the digestive tract. He didn’t allow those setbacks and Wyoming’s relatively small spotlight to prevent him from playing his way into the first round.
“I’ve faced a lot of adversity in my life, and I think it’s made me stronger,” Nance said. “For me, getting drafted wasn’t just a victory for me and my family. The entire Crohn’s and colitis community, it’s big for them too.”
Los Angeles had a second first-round pick after the deal that brought Jeremy Lin from Houston to the Lakers last summer.
The Lakers got Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick and added Stanford swingman Anthony Brown with the 34th pick. Nance is slated to join those rookies and second-year pros Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson in a promising young core.
“I’m an energy guy,” Nance said. “I play with an incredibly high motor. I never take a play off. Every loose ball, I’m on it. Every offensive rebound, I’m chasing it. I really hope to just earn my niche by playing with that energy and athleticism that hopefully is unparalleled.”
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