I wouldn’t really blame you if you did forget, but nevertheless, it’s a thing that actually happened:
Mark my words! Kobe plays for the Knicks next season. https://t.co/xzWhfsHhY9— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) June 29, 2016
Bryant would not play for the Knicks that season, but it turns out that he actually had considered playing for them at some point. Instead, Bryant ultimately retired after 20 seasons — all with the Lakers — but he admitted to Frank Isola of The Athletic that he at least considered what playing in New York would have been like.
What other teams would you have liked to play for besides the Lakers?
There are some teams … I always kind of dreamed about playing in New York and what that would have been like. It’s true. As a fan, the Garden was the historical arena. It’s like the last one left. So, when I came into the NBA there used to be Chicago Stadium. It’s crazy to think that you guys probably don’t know what Chicago Stadium is. But it was Chicago Stadium and there was the Boston Garden where Tiny did a lot of his damage. Then there is Madison Square Garden.
So, there is like three historical arenas. Chicago Stadium and Boston Garden were torn down. The only thing left was MSG. So, I always wanted to be a part of that history and play in it. So, New York was a team … it would have been pretty good to play in that city.
Bryant ultimately still got to be a part of Madison Square Garden history, even if only as an opponent. He alone held the record for most points scored by a Knicks opponent in the current MSG until this year, when James Harden equaled the 61 points Bryant scored in 2009. Carmelo Anthony has the record for overall scoring at the Garden with 62 points.
And while Bryant might have enjoyed being part of that history, it’s probably best for his legacy that he never actually joined the Knicks, and not just because even Bryant in his prime probably wasn’t talented enough to overcome the perpetual dysfunction in New York.
Part of Bryant’s ultimate Lakers legacy is that he never switched teams, something that is so rare among stars of modern times as to almost be nonexistent. Bryant would surely still be positively remembered by most Lakers fans even if he had left at some point, but it’s hard not to think he wouldn’t be as beloved by this fanbase as he currently is had he ever suited up somewhere else.
Bryant probably knows this, too, which is probably part of the reason he never left, and was content to retire a Laker and hang up his Nikes for good. Apologies to Jason Whitlock.