Kobe Bryant and LeBron James came up in trade discussions between the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2007.
Bryant, on the cusp of winning an MVP but frustrated with the direction of the Lakers, wasn’t a stranger to seeing his name come up in trade rumors. James was, especially after leading the scrappy Cavaliers to the NBA Finals before a whipping at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
That didn’t stop the two sides from discussing a deal.
ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst dropped the bombshell Wednesday ahead of Bryant’s final game in Cleveland:
According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the event, the Lakers once contacted the Cavs to investigate whether Cleveland would make James available in a possible Bryant trade.
Again, in context this isn’t so surprising. A team like the Lakers, clutching a somewhat disgruntled superstar, did due diligence by seeing if they could swap him for one of the game’s next big superstars.
In fact, this was a once-in-a-generation type potential deal. A franchise doesn’t just trade away a player like Bryant and not getting something very close to him in return. The rest of the writeup echoes these sentiments:
According to multiple sources, as the Lakers went through their options, a call was placed to the Cavs. The intent of the call, sources said, was clear: Would the Cavs make James available in a potential deal for Bryant?
Those who worked in Cleveland’s front office remember it for one reason, it was the only time a team had ever called and made an offer for James. He was considered an ultimate untouchable. Frankly, until that time, so was Bryant.
As one already knows, the deal never worked out. What’s interesting is that the Lakers continued to make calls and had the framework of Bryant deals in place with the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons. Bryant chasing Michael Jordan’s shadow or being the new face of the bad boys is hard to imagine, though. Swapping franchises with James? Maybe not so much.
Both players took the time to comment on the report, providing quite the interesting context for the look back in time.
For James, he didn’t blink when asked.
“I believe it,” James said to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. “If you give up one big fish, you got to give a big fish too.”
Bryant’s comments, though, put a damper on the backstory. Cleveland simply wasn’t one of his preferred destinations, though he did reveal where he would have accepted a trade to if two organizations could have come to terms.
“I never would’ve approved it. Never. The trade to go to Cleveland? Never,” Bryant told Holmes. “That wasn’t one of the teams that was on my list. It was Chicago, San Antonio (or) Phoenix.”
James and Bryant are forever linked. They have had some epic cross-conference duels over their careers, though it’s odd to sit back and think about them switching teams and doing so. It didn’t come to fruition and it’s hard to imagine anyone could complain. Bryant went on to land more rings with Pau Gasol, James took a trip to South Beach and back.
Bryant makes one more trip to Cleveland Wednesday night. The two won’t meet in the Finals, and never have. While unfortunate, this report furthers the legend and rivalry between the two. Call it, perhaps without exaggeration, one of the biggest “what if?” questions in the Association’s history.