Kobe Bryant — perhaps the most iconic player of the post-Michael Jordan NBA — nearly became a member of the Detroit Pistons in 2007 according to reports. Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press says that Bryant was asked to waive his no-trade clause and approve a deal to Detroit who were on his block list.
“It hit me that I didn’t really want to walk out on Dr. Buss,” Bryant said Monday, adding it probably wouldn’t have mattered if it was Chicago, Dallas or New York either.
According to a 2007 report from WXYT AM 1270, the Pistons would have sent Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, Amir Johnson and a first round pick to the Lakers.
Kobe rejected the deal, quite obviously, to remain in Los Angeles and all we can do is wonder what it could have been like.
The Pistons tried to rebuild on the fly beginning with the 2008 trade of Chauney Billups for Allen Iverson, but the salary cap space that the trade freed up resulted in the signing of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. The sequence of moves did more to keep the Pistons down than help bring them back up.
Would they have been able to retool on the go had the money (effectively) been used to retain Bryant instead of two would-be-bust free agents? Would Kobe have been happy to stay in Detroit long term? The answers to those questions are “maybe” and “probably not” but it’s all useless speculation at this point.