Perhaps one of the most infamous days in Los Angeles Lakers history was when former NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to team up with the late Kobe Bryant.
The trade was nixed for “basketball reasons,” a power Stern had as the de facto owner of the New Orleans Hornets. The trade was hardly unfair, as the Lakers were set to part with Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and multiple draft picks in order to complete the deal.
But the NBA owned the Hornets at the time, and had every right to deem the trade lopsided. Although the trade didn’t survive very long, Paul and Bryant were excited to team up, and had even spoken already.
Paul recently spoke about the day the trade went through and was subsequently vetoed, explaining his range of emotions and disappointment considering the conversations that had already taken place, via the “Knuckleheads” podcast hosted by Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles:
“It was crazy. I was trying to get Trev (Ariza) with me so he could be with his son in L.A. So when that trade got nixed, that was crazy. A lot of poeple don’t realize it was bigger than just going to the team. That was right after the lockout, so it was contract stuff that was a big deal.
“I always say I played for the Lakers for a couple hours. … I was on the phone with my brother, my agent and all that. We’r figuring out a plane to get us from New Orleans to L.A. … Let’s just say my agent clicked over, said hold on, clicked over and then came back on and he was like, stuttering. And we were hot. Me and Kobe had talked already and all that. It was a lot.”
Despite the whole situation happening over eight years ago, Paul seems upset to this day about it. The entire trajectory of several franchises would have changed had the trade gone through.
For starters, the Lakers would once again be vaulted into championship contender territory, rather than fading to the bottom of the standings over the next couple years. The L.A. Clippers likely would have stayed at the fringes of the playoffs, never making the leap to a perennial contender.
It also would have affected the Houston Rockets. They not only would have been changed immediately from the trade, but it presumably would have affected their ability to acquire Paul from the Clippers a few years later.
Perhaps the most intriguing change is what the legacies of Bryant and Paul would look like today. Bryant is considered one of the greatest of all time, and a sixth championship would have only added to his resume.
And with a championship or two under his belt, Paul could have vaulted himself into the conversation of greatest point guard of all time.
Paul battles with LeBron
Paul is now leading a surprise Oklahoma City Thunder team into the playoffs and is fresh off defeating LeBron James and the Lakers in a seeding game. Paul and James are of course good friends, and a potential playoff matchup would certainly have plenty of intrigue.
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