Whether it is acknowledged or not, the Los Angeles Lakers have been a part of some one-sided rivalries throughout their illustrious history.
One of the more memorable spats The Lakers had was against the Sacramento Kings in the early-2000’s. The Purple and Gold were led by one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history in Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant while the Kings had assembled a gritty, talented squad that featured Chris Webber as its best player.
Despite the talent he displayed early on in his career, Webber had a falling out with both the Golden State Warriors and Washington Bullets before finally settling down in Sacramento. If he had it his way, he would have ended up in Southern California instead.
Webber revealed that the Lakers were actually his preferred destination at the time, via Jason Jones of The Athletic:
Webber’s own fate wasn’t as fortuitous. In May 1998, after being labeled a problem on and off the court, Washington dealt him to Sacramento for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe. From Chocolate City to a Cowtown. A franchise that hadn’t had a winning record since 1985 in the city. Now this felt like punishment.
“They wanted to banish me to Sacramento,” Webber said. “That’s what that was.”
Webber held out hope that he’d be flipped to his preferred destination, the Lakers.
“I thought there was going to be a trade for Elden Campbell, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel for me,” Webber said. “I wanted to go there.”
Webber’s desire to join the Lakers is certainly understandable since they had emerged as legitimate contenders after making the Western Conference Semifinals during his final season in Washington. He clearly viewed himself as the final piece of the puzzle in the front court alongside O’Neal.
There is no question that the prospect of a Webber and O’Neal pairing down low would have been a scary sight for the NBA. Not to mention, the emergence of Bryant as a superstar may have even given them a Big 3 to help further dominate the league in the years to come.
Instead, Webber was pitted against them as a rival and the rest is history. While watching the Lakers go on to win a three-peat was a cruel twist of fate, there is no telling whether or not he would have reached the same heights in his career since his time with the Kings is what made him a Hall of Famer.
Kyle Kuzma has no bitterness toward Lakers
Although Webber’s blockbuster trade from Washington to the Lakers did not go down, a different one finally came to fruition this offseason when Russell Westbrook was traded to the Purple and Gold in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a draft pick.
Kuzma had been the longest-tenured player in L.A. until his performance last season fell vastly short of expectations. Despite his stint coming to an un ceremonious end, there is no sense of ill will toward his former team, which is good to see as he embarks on the next chapter in his young career.
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