Kobe Bryant, drafted by the Hornets with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, won five NBA titles with the Lakers. Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

June 26 in sports history: 'Incredible' talent, 'electric smile'

Here's a look back at notable sports news on June 26 through the years:

1996:  With the first pick in the NBA Draft, the 76ers selected Georgetown guard Allen Iverson, who, although not a fan of practicing, turned out OK.

It was another pick later in the first round, however, that really generated buzz. Charlotte selected 17-year-old Lower Merion (Pa.) High School star Kobe Bryant, who was already rumored to be headed elsewhere. The Hornets confirmed a trade was in the works.

"I'm in the NBA," Bryant said, flashing a smile. "It feels like heaven."

"No one else's smile was quite so electric," the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote. "No one else seemed quite so relaxed, waving and winking and flirting with the cameras. Kobe Bryant may be 17, the baby of the NBA draft, but the teenager picked by the Charlotte Hornets at No. 13 last night acted like he'd always been a full-blown adult celebrity."

Gregg Downer, Bryant's high school coach, was confident Kobe would be a star in the Association. "Anyone who gets him and doubts his talent or his special abilities," he told the Inquirer, "they're going to find out soon that he's special." 

At Lower Merion, Bryant averaged 30 points and led his team to a state title. At games, he signed autographs for kids. And he already was a worldly young man, having visited Spain and lived in Italy while his dad, former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played overseas. He even spoke fluent Italian.

But he had never been to Charlotte. Turns out he wasn't going there to play anyway. 

Lakers executive vice president Jerry West, an astute judge of NBA talent, coveted Bryant, whom he thought had superstar potential. "Absolutely incredible," West called Bryant's predraft visit with the Lakers, according to the Los Angeles Times.

West eventually swung a deal with Hornets, sending Vlade Divac for Bryant. One of the most lopsided trades in NBA history turbo-charged the Lakers, who won five NBA titles with Kobe — one of the greatest players in NBA history.

And unlike the first pick in the draft, he loved to practice.

2002: Six years later, another monumental NBA Draft was held. With the first pick, the Rockets selected 7-foot-5, 296-pound Chinese center Yao Ming, whose impact on the game went far beyond the court.

Yao, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, helped make the NBA wildly popular in China. Only hours before the draft, the 21-year-old received clearance from the Chinese national federation to play in the Association. 

"The whole franchise wanted this so badly," Rockets GM Carroll Dawson said of the selection of Yao.

2003: And a year later, another monumental draft was held. The Cavaliers made high school star LeBron James -- you may have heard of him -- the top pick.

"This finally shows my hard work has paid off for me," he said. "I want to see our team get better every day. That's my biggest goal."


2012: This is a date when almost every college football fan celebrated. A committee of university presidents approved the BCS commissioners’ plan for a four-team playoff, beginning in 2014. 


"This was timely, had to be done," former Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told the New York Daily News, whose columnist, Dick Weiss, wondered about how a playoff would affect smaller schools:

"College football fans can finally start filling out their brackets. Representatives from the power conferences can start filling up their coffers, and those from smaller schools can start filling up their complaint boxes."


1990: With a 6-3, 6-1 victory in the first round over Helen Kelesi, 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati became the youngest winner of a match in Wimbledon history. She even got to play on storied Centre Court — something she would never forget.

"I was so happy they put me there," Capriati said, according to the Tampa Tribune.  "I was jumping up and down. They told me I had to curtsy because royalty was there. It was like ... wow!"

Capriati, who was seeded 12th, lost in the fourth round to Steffi Graf.

This date was anything but a "wow!" for some stars at the All England Club. In 2002, seven-time champion Pete Sampras, 1992 winner Andre Agassi and No. 2-seeded Marat Safin all lost. 

In the second round in 2008, former champion Maria Sharapova and two-time runner-up Andy Roddick were ousted. And in 2013 came a huge shocker in Round 2: Seven-time champion Roger Federer lost to 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky, who had a, well, odd way of describing his "fantastic day."

"When you play Roger Federer," the 27-year-old Ukrainian told reporters, "it's like you're playing two [people]. First, you play Roger Federer, then you play his ego."


1916: In a game against the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians appeared on the field with numbers on their sleeves — a big league first. 

Wrote the Chicago Tribune:  

"The Cleveland club introduced a new stunt in baseball by numbering all its players. Black figures were on the shirt sleeve and corresponded to numbers opposite the players' names in the score card. Such a scheme made it possible for the fans in the stands to know Bill Shoup, the CHICAGO amateur, just as well as they knew [future Hall of Famer] Tris Speaker."


1944: In the midst of World War II, the New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees played against each other in a six-inning exhibition at the Polo Grounds. Fans purchased war bonds in exchange for tickets.

The game was played with a weird, round-robin format in which the teams rotated fielding and batting. Total attendance: about 50,000. Final score for the six-inning game: Dodgers 5, Yankees 1, Giants 0.

"The consensus was that there was just one too many ball teams out there on the field," wrote Brooklyn Daily Eagle columnist Tommy Holmes.

But "if you lingered to the end," he added, "you saw why all this is important ...The players left the field and a caravan of Red Cross station wagons, at least 50 of them plus numerous private cars, rolled into the park to carry away the wounded service men who were among those present."

1962: In a 2-0 win at Fenway Park, Earl Wilson — the first Black pitcher in Red Sox's history — no-hit the Angels at Fenway Park. He also homered.

"All I can say," Wilson told the Boston Globe, "is the Good Man was with me tonight." The newspaper reported the right-hander would get a new contract — for $1,000 more.

In 1968, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson was dominant, finishing with a 1.12 ERA. Focus on Sports/Getty Images

1968: Against the Pirates, St. Louis’ Bob Gibson pitched his fifth consecutive shutout, winning 3-0. His scoreless inning streak reached 47, within distance of Don Drysdale's then-record 58.2.

 "If I set a record, fine ...," he told reporters. "I really don't care." Gibson, who finished the season with a live-ball era-record ERA of 1.12, gave up a run in the first inning of his next game. 

Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers holds the record for consecutive scoreless innings with 59, set in 1988.

1976: Rangers shortstop Toby Harrah had a relaxing day at the office. In a doubleheader against the White Sox, he didn't handle one batted ball — an odd major league record. At the plate, he was more active: six hits, two homers, eight RBI.


2011: At the LPGA Championship, top-ranked Yani Tseng, a 22-year-old from Taiwan, was spectacular, winning by 10 strokes. She became the youngest player to win four LPGA majors. Norwegian Suzann Pettersen called Tseng a "phenomenal golfer."

Happy birthday ... 

  • Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by Atlanta. Vick, who holds the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback, was incarcerated for his role in a dog fighting ring after which he returned to the league to finish out his career with Philadelphia, the Jets and Pittsburgh. (40)

Happy 46th birthday to The Captain, Derek Jeter.  Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
  • All-time great New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who is part owner of the Miami Marlins. The Hall of Famer debuted in pinstripes in 1995 and in his 20 years in New York, he was Rookie of the Year and a 14-time All-Star, won five Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers and was named World Series and All-Star Game MVP in the same season. (46)
  • Shannon Sharpe, Hall of Fame tight end and NFL analyst. Sharpe spent 12 of his 14 pro seasons with Denver and ended his career in the top five among tight ends in touchdowns, yards and catches. (52)
  • Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Considered among the greatest in his sport, the cyclist was the first non-European to win the Tour and has been an outspoken anti-doping advocate. (59)


1993: Roy Campanella, a Hall of Fame catcher with the Dodgers whose career was cut short when he was paralyzed following a car accident. The three-time NL MVP and eight-time All-Star has the highest caught-stealing percentage all time. He died of heart failure at 71.

1997: University of Alabama and Green Bay Packers star receiver Don Hutson, considered among the greatest at his position to ever play. Hutson died at 84.

June 25: He was great — fundamentally speaking

A longtime editor at ESPN and The Dallas Morning News, Banks has written for The New York Times, Civil War Times, America's Civil War, Military Images and other publications. He lives in Nashville.

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