In the mid-2000s, Kobe Bryant had really begun to cement himself as the NBA’s premier superstar, even as the Los Angeles Lakers struggled as a team. Around that same time, LeBron James began to rise as the league’s next legendary player in Cleveland.
In 2007, Kobe famously demanded to be traded if the Lakers didn’t make serious changes and it is now known that the Lakers nearly had deals with both Chicago and Detroit, but ultimately nothing was finalized.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, however, the Lakers also placed a call to Cleveland to see if there was any interest in a potential Kobe-LeBron swap:
According to multiple sources, as the Lakers went through their options, a call was placed to the Cavs. The intent of the call, sources said, was clear: Would the Cavs make James available in a potential deal for Bryant? […] The Cavs said that James, indeed, was untouchable, sources said. Then they attempted to make the Lakers a different offer for Bryant, offering anyone else on their team in a package for him. The Lakers had no interest.
The Lakers having no interest in anyone but LeBron isn’t surprising, but even had the two sides come to an agreement, Kobe says he would not have waived his no-trade clause to go to Cleveland:
“I never would’ve approved it. Never. The trade to go to Cleveland? Never,” Bryant told Holmes. “That wasn’t one of the teams that was on my list. It was Chicago, San Antonio (or) Phoenix.”
Kobe and LeBron are both legendary players and surefire Hall of Famers, but the thought of LeBron donning the purple and gold is something that is difficult to imagine. Of course, if the Lakers were serious about moving Bryant, trying to get the NBA’s best young superstar in return only makes sense.
Of course, it never wound up happening and the Lakers would begin a run of three consecutive NBA Finals trips that next season after trading for Pau Gasol. Had something like this come to fruition, who knows how different NBA history would have been.