The Los Angeles Lakers are taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, and in a different world it would Kobe Bryant's final game against his former team. Apparently, when Bryant demanded a trade amidst the Lakers' struggles in 2007, the team's front office investigated the possibility of trading their disgruntled star for the Cavaliers' franchise player, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
The trade discussions ultimately went nowhere, with Bryant telling Baxter Holmes of ESPN that he would not have approved a trade to anywhere outside of his preferred list of cities, which included San Antonio, Chicago, and Phoenix. On the Cavaliers' side, team sources told Windhorst that James "was untouchable," but that they still attempted to trade for Bryant, offering "anyone else on their team in a package for him," but that "the Lakers had no interest." Windhorst's sources also revealed that ""it was the only time a team ever called to make an offer for James."
A Bryant-for-James swap certainly would have changed the course of NBA history. Bryant was firmly in the midst of his prime and James was just entering his, but even with James leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat a few years later, now that he's back in Cleveland the team's front office probably doesn't regret not pulling the trigger on a deal for a player who would win the MVP that season.
Similarly, the Lakers went on to appear in the next three NBA Finals, winning two, and almost certainly wouldn't change their decision even with James still playing at an MVP level and Bryant on his way out. Still, it's fascinating to think about the alternate universe where the man who calls himself "Vino" ended up wearing Cleveland's wine and gold jerseys while LeBron took his talents to a different Southern beach.
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