Los Angeles Lakers fans have been extremely fortunate that they have been able to enjoy Kobe Bryant for the entirety of his 20-year career. That nearly wasn’t the case, however.
When Kobe was a free agent in 2004, there was a legitimate belief that he could leave the Lakers and join the crosstown-rival Los Angeles Clippers.
In an interview on ESPN LA 710, Kobe admitted that he was very close to signing with the Clippers via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Kobe (on ESPN710) said he was "very close" to signing w/ Clippers in '04. At the time, potential of them playing in Anaheim very intriguing
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 6, 2016
The thought of Kobe in anything besides purple and gold is difficult to imagine, but it was very nearly a reality. The feud between Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal had reached its breaking point, and many believe Kobe would not have returned if the Lakers retained Shaq. Of course, the Lakers ultimately traded Shaq to the Miami Heat and Kobe re-signed the next day.
Things would work out for both Kobe and the Lakers as they would eventually win two more championships with Bryant at the lead. Him joining the Clippers, however, is interesting to think about as the Clippers at that time were the laughingstock of the NBA.
Kobe potentially leading the Clippers from the basement to a championship could have been an even greater accomplishment, but it simply wasn’t meant to be as Kobe will always be synonymous with the Lakers franchise.