Not so long ago, Kobe Bryant was still knocking everybody off their feet in the Staples Center, dressing in purple and gold for 20 straight years before calling it a day and seeing his two jerseys hanging in the rafters for good.
After 5 Championships and being the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, Kobe Bryant will definitely go down as the greatest player in Los Angeles Lakers history, even recognized by Magic Johnson himself during his jersey retiring ceremony.
Kobe gave his heart, his hustle and a lot of joy to the city of Los Angeles throughout his entire career, making millions of fans fall in love with this beautiful game while proudly wearing his Los Angeles Lakers jersey night in and night out.
But, what if we told you that the greatest baller in Lakers history was pretty close to leaving the team during the post-Shaq era following a very frustrating campaign with a lopsided team that wasn’t ready to compete?
From ESPN's NBA Research and Information Specialist Peter D. Newmann:
When Bryant signed his free-agent contract on July 15, 2004, a seven-year deal worth $136.4 million, a no-trade clause was built into his contract. He is the only player in the NBA that has a no-trade clause in his contract. He has a no-trade clause for at least two more seasons, at which time he can opt out of his current contract (after the 2008-09 season). If he exercises his option to become a free agent, he would walk away from a combined $47.8 million for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. The only way the Lakers could trade Bryant is if he waived his no-trade clause, which means the team would need Bryant's approval to trade him.
Back then in the 2007 campaign, the All-Star shooting guard actually demanded to be traded by the team, as there were reports that the franchise wasn’t comfortable with him hanging around anyways. But, what could the Lakers get in return for their top tier scorer? Let’s take a look at some reported trade offers eventually rejected by either Bryant or the team.
From ESPN News Services:
The story lines that have engulfed the Los Angeles Lakers in the last week hit a crescendo Wednesday when Kobe Bryant said he would welcome a trade.
"I would like to be traded, yeah," Bryant said on 1050 ESPN Radio in New York. "Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there's no other alternative, you know?"
Bryant, interviewed by Stephen A. Smith, was asked if there was anything the Lakers could do to change his mind?
"No," Bryant said. "I just want them to do the right thing."
Back then, the Suns were one of Kobe’s favorite destinations, as the team was coached by Bryant’s childhood idol, Mike D’Antoni; as well as being in a prime contending position with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Lakers would’ve gotten Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw and a handful of picks in return for the shooting guard, but eventually the deal fell off. Could you just imagine what kind of big three in the desert with all three players in their prime and that seven seconds or less offense?
Of all of the moves, this one was the closest to happening, but eventually, Kobe Bryant called it off, as he stated that the Pistons weren’t on his possible trade list and he wouldn’t be comfortable playing at the Palace.
"I gave you a list of teams I'm comfortable being traded to," Bryant recalled. "Not Detroit."
If this move had gone through, the Los Angeles Lakers would’ve landed Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and several draft picks, and Mitch Kupchak was pretty happy with that offer. Gladly, things fell apart.
The Houston Rockets were thriving with Tracy McGrady playing alongside Yao Ming and looked as a legit threat in the Western Conference, but they were constantly falling short of the goal with some people really doubting T-Mac’s ability to come through in crunch time.
That deal would’ve send Tracy McGrady to the Staples Center and Kobe to the Rockets, with both parties staying at very comfortable positions: Los Angeles would’ve still sold a lot of tickets, and the Rockets would’ve still have a top-tier wing beside their Asian giant.
And finally, we got the Chicago Bulls. As a matter of fact, Kobe did want to go to the Bulls to carry on Michael Jordan’s torch and bring back the team to Championship contention, demanding the team to approve Chicago’s offer.
The Bulls had offer Joakim Noah, some draft picks and several spare parts, but with the Bulls reckless to include All-Star forward Luol Deng in the package, trade talks stalled and vanished. Could you just imagine what would’ve been of basketball history?
"Chicago was my No. 1 choice," Bryant said.
Eventually, Pau Gasol would land at LA and Kobe would lead the Lakers to a couple of Championships. The rest, as you know, is history.