Lakers-Pistons Kobe Bryant trade that almost happened gets eye-opening revelation

Tony Nguyen | Los Angeles Lakers
May 15, 2024

More details have emerged from the trade that almost sent Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant to the Detroit Pistons almost two decades ago.

Back in 2007, following the Los Angeles Lakers’ second straight first-round playoff exit, Kobe Bryant had had enough and demanded a trade.

It was a startling request by Bryant, who had spent his entire career with the Lakers up until that point. He had won three championships with the club and had also made it to four NBA Finals overall.

However, those titles came between 2000 and 2002. The last finals appearance came in 2004. Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat during the summer of 2004, and over those next several years, it was clear Los Angeles wasn’t a legitimate contender. Bryant did all he could to will the Lakers into the playoffs, but his supporting cast just wasn’t strong enough for LA to actually do any damage once it got there.

Of course, Bryant ultimately stayed with the Lakers for the remainder of his NBA tenure and won a couple of more rings in Tinseltown, but not before he was almost dealt to the Pistons.

Apparently, Los Angeles had agreed to trade Bryant to Detroit in a deal that would have sent Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and other assets back to LA, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context on that near-blockbuster move in a recent appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast.

Bryant ended up vetoing the trade.

Kobe Bryant made the right decision

Detroit Pistons forward Caron Butler (31) guards Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure Kobe could have played the whole situation any better than he did.

Bryant probably never wanted to actually leave Los Angeles. The Lakers talked with a bunch of teams about potentially trading Bryant, as Wojnarowski notes. The Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and other were all real possibilities. But Bryant had to actually want to do it.

The Hall-of-Fame shooting guard obviously never had any real intention of leaving LA. He was just merely expressing his frustration to force the Lakers’ hand into putting better talent around him, and you know what? It worked.

Midway through that ensuing season, the Lakers acquired All-Star center Pau Gasol in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, giving Los Angeles a terrific Bryant-Gasol duo. Not only that, but the Lakers had outstanding role players such as Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza.

That team went on to make three straight finals appearances, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. It marked the first rings Bryant won without Shaq, and it officially cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever set foot on the hardwood.

Bryant’s decision to block the trade to Detroit was the right one. Think about it: the deal was basically done. It was agreed to. All that was needed was an “okay” from Kobe, and he declined the trade. It probably saved both Bryant and the Lakers from disaster, as we see what has happened to the Pistons’ franchise ever since (Bryant would have been part of all that losing), and Los Angeles would not have added a couple of more banners to its rafters without Kobe.

This was a brilliant strong-arm move by the late Kobe Bryant.