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The Lakers had a trade in place that would have sent Kobe Bryant to the Detroit Pistons in 2007, but Kobe turned it down at the last minute, according to a new report by Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski.That year was rock bottom for the Kobe Era is Los Angeles.
The team was just 42-40 in 2006-07, and had missed the playoffs in two of the previous three seasons.
A disgruntled Kobe demanded an offseason trade in May of 2007. By the fall, Lakers owner Jerry Buss called Bryant into his office and told him he had a trade in place with Detroit, and Kobe could chose to leave if he wanted to waive his no-trade clause, Wojnarowski reports.
“In that moment, in Buss’ house in the hills, it washed over Bryant how much staying a Laker for life meant to him, how no matter how dire the state of the franchise seemed, that Buss had a history of restoring the Lakers to championship contention.”
That’s exactly what happened. The Lakers went on to win two of the next three titles.
But before now we never realised how close Kobe had been to leaving LA, and altering the entire shape of the NBA landscape as a result.
Detroit was one of the best teams in the NBA at the time. They won 59 games in 2007-2008, but fell off a cliff the next season and won just 39 games. If they added Kobe, their period of dominance could have extended for another five years.
Depending on who they sent back to LA, Detroit could have had a starting five of: Kobe, Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace.
The Lakers, in a full rebuilding mode, may not have traded for Pau Gasol in 2008, meaning another contending team may have landed the big man in his prime.
But perhaps the juiciest “what if” is that by the summer of 2010 — when LeBron James was a free agent — the Lakers would have had cap space and a nice stash of young players to entice LBJ to LA.
The course of the NBA, more than any other sport, is determined by a handful of three or four superstars. We saw how violently the LeBron move to Miami shook the league, and that same sort of seismic shift would have happened if Kobe just said “yes” at that meeting in 2007.
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