On Feb. 1, 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Pau Gasol and a second-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and first round picks in 2008 and 2010. The rest is history.
If the Lakers didn’t pull off that trade, it sounds like Kobe Bryant and Gasol would have ended up playing with each other eventually. According to a story from Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Bryant and Gasol had talked about teaming up since 2007, when they ran into each other in the gym of a Barcelona Hotel in the summer:
They didn’t know each other well, but both were in awkward phases with their teams. Gasol had talked with the Memphis Grizzlies about a possible trade, and word of that became public. Bryant had gone on a radio interview and said he’d rather play on Pluto than for the Lakers at that point.
They chatted about their situations and mused about how wonderful it would be if somehow they could play together.
“Obviously in my mind, I’m thinking there’s no way I can get traded and go to L.A.,” Gasol said. “Because in my mind I’m thinking best player for best player.”
With all due respect to Gasol, who was an All-Star in his own right at the time, it’s hard to imagine that Mitch Kupchak would have accepted a package for Bryant centered around Gasol. That would like be like trading Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl (I’m sorry if that’s a hot take).
Luckily for the Lakers, they were able to trade for Gasol without giving up Bryant, or anyone close to Bryant’s talent level. Suffice to say, they were happy with their return.