By Dan Jenkins
A tale about Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant being traded to the Detroit Pistons in 2007 was recently chronicled by CBS Sports.
A deal bringing Kobe to the Motor City for Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell and two first-round picks was agreed to and nearly signed off on — until Bryant nixed it at the last possible moment.
However, that isn’t the first time the Pistons had a chance to bring the Black Mamba to Auburn Hills.
In an interview with Today’s Fastbreak, legendary Lakers coach Phil Jackson revealed that the Pistons were asking about Bryant as early as 1999.
Bryant wasn’t happy with his role with the team after coming back from a hand injury early in the 1999-2000 season. He complained to management and said he wanted to be traded, Jackson said.
Then — for a split second — the thought of sending Bryant to Detroit for Grant Hill crossed Jackson’s mind.
“A couple of weeks later, we’re still winning and Shaq is completely motivated. But Kobe was only averaging about 19 points per game. So Kobe called Jerry West and wanted to know how Jerry and Elgin Baylor both averaged 30 points. Kobe also said that he wanted to be traded. Of course, Jerry told me about the conversation. And, for a few minutes I thought about taking the Pistons up on an offer they made to trade Kobe for Grant Hill. Make that a few seconds.”
Of course Bryant stayed in Los Angeles for 20 years, winning five championships en route to becoming the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer and an eventual first-ballot Hall of Famer.
The Pistons would send Hill to the Orlando Magic for Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins in a sign-and-trade during the 2000 offseason.
Then — of course — Wallace and the Pistons would go on to beat Bryant and Shaq in the 2004 NBA Finals. But it’s always fun to think about what could have been…