After Kobe Bryant made the announcement that the 2015-16 season will be the final year of his career, the NBA world immediately began to reminisce about Bryant’s various achievements in what is sure to be a first ballot Hall-of-Fame entrance. And while he can be proud of what he achieved on the court in Los Angeles, he admitted on Tuesday that he may regret one particular childhood dream that will surely go unfulfilled.
“When I was in high school, I hoped to be a Sixer,” Bryant said prior to the Lakers’ loss to a previously-winless 76ers squad. “I was always hoping that. But at the time, [Allen] Iverson was such a, such a force … but it was always a dream of mine to play in Philadelphia.”
Bryant will end his career with the team he started with back in 1996. But it’s easy to forget, that wasn’t always a foregone conclusion. Coming off a subpar year in 2007 where the team barely made the playoffs and were easily ousted in the first round by the Suns, Bryant was not happy with Lakers’ management and was publicly seeking a trade. It may have seemed unheard of for the Lakers to even consider it – the 28-year-old Bryant was in the prime of his career, and was coming off another MVP-esque season where he averaged 31.6 points per game – but they had the makings of a trade all worked out with the Bulls and were fully prepared to ship him out of town.
By the time opening night of the 2007-08 season arrived on Halloween, the entire NBA was waiting for the blockbuster to happen. [Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak and [Bulls GM] John Paxson had gone over more than a half-dozen proposed deals, and they finally settled on a swap of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas.
Problem was, Bryant had a trade veto. And he kept vetoing the deals that were on the table, wanting one or possibly two things: for the Lakers to be crushed in the deal, and/or for the Bulls to retain enough talent to make a legitimate run at the title.
A third possibility could be that Bryant’s trade demand was all a ruse from the start, and only used it as leverage to force Kupchak’s hand at improving the roster. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to wonder what might have been for both teams had the trade went down.