Kobe Bryant Nearly Was Traded To Pistons In 2007, But Lakers Owner Saved The Day

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Kobe Bryant has spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and in this era, that’s pretty remarkable.

But Bryant certainly entertained thoughts of leaving, and in 2007, he was one step away from dramatically altering the NBA landscape.

Reports have surfaced over the years that the Lakers star, frustrated by L.A.’s back-to-back first-round playoff exits, was close to joining the Detroit Pistons via trade in the 2007 preseason. But in a lengthy article Thursday, CBS Sports’ Ken Berger revealed just how close the deal was to reality.

According to Berger, who spoke with several people close to the Pistons and Lakers, the blockbuster deal would have sent Bryant to Detroit in return for Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell and two first-round draft picks. Bryant had a no-trade clause but, per Berger’s source, was willing to waive it for two teams: the Chicago Bulls and the Pistons.

“The deal was done,” a person directly involved with the negotiations told Berger. “We were just waiting to set up the conference call with the league office.”

So why didn’t the trade go through? In a trip to Detroit last February, Bryant said he personally axed the deal, denying he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for the Pistons. But Berger cited another reason why Kobe backed out: a last-minute meeting with Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

“Buss had been in Spain while the trade talks were taking place,” Berger wrote. “The quixotic billionaire and architect of multiple Lakers dynasties had requested one last shot at talking Bryant out of the deal. … With that, the Pistons knew the deal was dead. …

“Indeed, Buss reminded Kobe it was indeed good to be a Laker for life, and successfully played on Bryant’s sense of loyalty and his trust in Buss to get him some help. By early February, Buss delivered — landing Pau Gasol in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.”

It turns out Bryant made the right call. The Lakers made the NBA Finals in each of the next three seasons, losing to the Boston Celtics in 2008 before beating the Orlando Magic to claim the 2009 title and exacting revenge on Boston in 2010.

As Berger points out, though, Kobe-to-the-Pistons likely would have set up some awesome showdowns between him and LeBron James. But Bryant stayed loyal to L.A., leaving the rest of the NBA to wonder “what if?”

Click to read Berger’s entire Bryant-to-Detroit trade story >>

Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) gives a thumbs up before the game against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
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