Kobe Bryant spent two decades playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, cementing his legacy as perhaps the greatest player ever to put on the purple and gold. He brought home five championships to Los Angeles, and even in retirement, his name is synonymous with Lakers basketball.
However, his career almost took a very different path. After parting ways with superstar teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant had a Lakers team to call his own, but he eventually grew frustrated with the lack of talent around him. In 2007, Bryant requested a trade from the only team that he had ever known, and for a time it looked as though the Lakers were going to appease him.
That’s when owner Dr. Jerry Buss, legendary in his own right, sent a telegram that caused Bryant to change his mind and decide to stay in Los Angeles. Rob Pelinka, Bryant’s former agent who is now the Lakers General Manager, relayed the story at an ESPNLA event. According to Pelinka, who still has the telegram, it read:
“Kobe, as you make this decision, never bet against me winning championships.”
According to Pelinka, Bryant read the note from Buss, who was out of town on vacation, and knew that he simply couldn’t leave the Lakers. Over the years Buss had proven that he could build championship-level teams, and if Bryant wanted to win, there was simply no better place to be.
Dr. Buss sadly passed away in 2013, but by then, Bryant had helped bring two more championships to him in 2009 and 2010. Today, few can even imagine Bryant in another jersey.
It wasn’t always an easy hill to climb, and for a brief period it appeared that Bryant would be leaving Los Angeles, but Buss stepped in when he was needed and ensured that it wouldn’t happen. Bryant retired a Laker, just as the great Dr. Buss always envisioned.