Kobe Bryant will play his final game in Cleveland on Wednesday night against LeBron James’ Cavaliers. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see Kobe vs. LeBron on the NBA Finals stage, but recent reports indicate that we almost saw something much bigger go down back in 2007.
The Cleveland front office remembers the summer of 2007 well, not only because they we’re coming off LBJ leading them to the Finals for the first time, but because it was also the first and only time the Cavs have ever received a trade offer for James.
The trade? LeBron for Kobe.
As it turns out, the Cavs declined. But had they not, the trade still wouldn’t have gone through, as Kobe told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes that he never would have agreed to a trade to Cleveland unless he would be playing alongside ‘Bron. You have to remember, in the summer of ’07, the Lakers were coming off three disappointing seasons post-Shaq trade and Kobe was getting frustrated despite all his personal accomplishments.
But imagine what the league could’ve looked like if the trade happened?
To set the scene, James was 22-years old and coming off an improbable Finals appearance against the Spurs. He averaged 27.3 points, 6.7 boards and 6.0 helpers during that fourth season of his career.
Kobe was a three-time champion desperately trying to prove he could win without Shaq, but yet to have much success. Individually, he was the most dominant force in the league. The 28-year old averaged a league-high 31.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists in his 11th season. Kobe was also just one season removed from his 81-point performance and a season in which he averaged an absurd 35.4 points.
Bryant was the ultimate scoring weapon at this stage of his career. Unfortunately for the Lakers (since they made the offer), LeBron was likely the one and only player more valuable than Kobe at this point in time. But it was worth the phone call, especially since we now get to dream about what it would have meant for the NBA.
Would the Lakers have been able to build a powerhouse around LeBron in L.A.? Would they have more or less than the two titles that Kobe was able to get them in ’09 and ’10? You’d have to think it’d be pretty easy to attract talent to come play in Hollywood with the best young player of his generation.
Could Cleveland have gotten any talent to join Kobe when they were already having trouble finding players to build around James? Would Kobe even consider re-signing with the Cavs? I’d think not. Which means … where would Kobe have wound up as a free agent? Could it even have been back with LeBron and the Lakers?? So many possibilities!
Kobe revealed to Holmes that there were three destinations he would’ve approved a trade: Chicago, San Antonio and Phoenix. Remember, we’re talking the defending champion Spurs with the Big-3 in tact and a Suns team with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire flourishing. Kobe would have been a crazy addition.
In the long-run, Kobe’s legacy is probably best off as a career-long Laker and five-time champion. LeBron’s career worked out pretty well too, and still has more chapters to be written.
The “what ifs” in a scenario like this are just too juicy not to consider, especially if you’re a Lakers or Cavs fan. Would you guys have liked to have seen this trade?
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