With Kobe Bryant officially retired from the NBA, more interesting stories about Black Mamba’s time with the league are coming into the open. One of the NBA rumors mentioned lately was the possible trade between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers back in 1999, when star forward Grant Hill was offered for the young Kobe Bryant.
Phil Jackson exposed the story in an interview with Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak, admitting that the Lakers considered dealing Bryant during the 1999-2000 season.
According to the report, Kobe was unhappy with a bench role in L.A. and demanded a trade from the Lakers.
“When Kobe was healed and ready to return, I was a bit reluctant to make a major alteration in our winning combination. So I suggested that Kobe come off the bench. ‘I don’t see myself not starting,’ was his response. ‘I don’t want to be known as a bench player.’ Here was a 20-year-old already concerned about his legacy. So we had a little pushback, an indication of what might lie ahead,” Jackson shared in the article.
“A couple of weeks later, we’re still winning and Shaq is completely motivated. But Kobe was only averaging about 19 points per game. So Kobe called Jerry West and wanted to know how Jerry and Elgin Baylor both averaged 30 points. Kobe also said that he wanted to be traded. Of course, Jerry told me about the conversation. And, for a few minutes I thought about taking the Pistons up on an offer they made to trade Kobe for Grant Hill. Make that a few seconds.”
Looking back, this was not a bad trade for the Lakers because Grant Hill was one of the superstar forwards back then. This rumored trade proposal was before Hill’s infamous set of injuries that derailed his NBA career.
But the Zen Master wanted no part of the Lakers-Pistons trade and emphasized to Kobe the need to “be patient” and letting “the game come to him”. At around these times, there were questions in Los Angeles if the superstar pair of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal could co-exist under Jackson’s triangle offense.
The Lakers won multiple championships with the trio and the Lakers fans are glad that the NBA rumors of Kobe Bryant for Grant Hill never happened. Kobe Bryant ended his career as one of the greatest players to play in the NBA.