If there is one sore spot that will forever remain in the minds of Los Angeles Lakers fans until the end of time it has to be the infamous vetoed trade that would have brought Chris Paul in purple and gold to pair with Kobe Bryant.
Back in 2011, the Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets agreed to a three-team deal that would have sent Paul to the L.A. That trade was vetoed by NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was acting as Hornets president at the time due to the league buying the franchise from its previous owner. Stern infamously cited “basketball reasons” as to why he nix the deal and a few days later Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
It is one of the biggest ‘what ifs’ in NBA history and Paul recently reflected on how everything went down during that time on the latest episode of The Pivot Podcast. Paul recalled the phone calls that were had at that time and added that he hates how he never got the chance to play with Kobe:
“It’s crazy how all that stuff went down. How the GM called and me and Kobe got on the phone. We talked, we talked and a phone call came through to let up know that the trade was nixed. I went to go eat at a restaurant called Z’s, that’s where I was, me and my wife and little Chris was a baby. And the people in the restaurant started talking crazy like ‘Eff you, man! Get out of here, get out of here!’ So then we left and went back to the condo. We thought the trade was happening, but then it didn’t. Like I said, me and Kob, we got on the phone. Kob is just special, and it’s different and I think I was so excited about it.
“I saw a podcast of him from a while ago talking about us with the All-Star Game. Me and Kob were just wired the same. You know what I mean? His talent was outrageous, but when we played against each other, we was about to fight just about every time because we was both on that same energy. I don’t know how to not play for real. So if it’s a preseason game, let’s get to it. If it’s a regular season game, let’s get to it. If it’s an All-Star Game, let’s get to it.
“So any All-Star game that me and him played together, I don’t think we ever lost. And that was just because our approach to it was… you get paid for playing in the All-Star Game, right? The winning team gets a certain amount and the losing team gets a certain amount. But even if it was just the winning team gets a dime and the loose team gets a nickel, we’re gonna play it the same way… So I hate that opportunity didn’t get to happen, especially at that point in my career, I always knew how good Kobe was even at catch-and-shoots. But he never got a chance to show that part of his game. But had we gotten a chance to play together, I think it could’ve been fun.”
It is anyone’s guess as to how successful the pairing of Paul and Bryant would have been, but it’s a shame that we never got to see it happen. Paul brings up an interesting point in that Kobe was a good catch-and-shoot player, but rarely got to show that as he was usually the primary ball-handler. How the games of these two would have melded would have been extremely interesting to watch and the two undoubtedly were similar in their competitiveness.
With Paul no longer an option, the Lakers would change course the next offseason, trading for point guard Steve Nash as well as bringing in big man Dwight Howard. That, of course, would turn out to be a massive disappointment and only further the thoughts of what could have been if Paul and Bryant played together in a Lakers uniform.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes Lakers were ‘gassed’ by end of their playoff run
In terms of the current Lakers team, they enjoyed an unexpected but exciting run to the Western Conference Finals behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It was a long road for the Lakers after an awful start to the season which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes hurt them in the end.
The Lakers legend noted how the players on the team looked ‘gassed’ as if they had been through ‘two seasons’ at the end of their run. Kareem added that he believes if they hadn’t started the year so bad they could have done better, but concluded that the team did an excellent job of fighting back and should be proud of the season they had.
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