Smug beyond belief as a cadre of Denver-area reporters approached him on Thursday to talk all things Carmelo-ish, Bryant brought up his own self-styled soap opera from 2007, one that saw him demand a trade during the spring of that year, a move that nearly resulted in a deal with the Chicago Bulls that fall.
Bryant was ticked that GM Mitch Kupchak had failed to surround him with a supporting core better suited to his talents. Kupchak had done a pretty poor job at rebuilding the Lakers following the ultimately divisive battle between Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal(notes), and Kobe was pushing hard for a trade with the then up and coming Bulls; a team he had flirted with signing with even after the Lakers had ceded to his wishes and traded O'Neal in the summer of 2004.
The deal never took place, as Bryant (owner of the league's only no-trade clause back then) chafed at the idea of Chicago including Luol Deng(notes) in any deal. The season started, Andrew Bynum(notes) (who famously had to listen to a very public moan-fest from Bryant, who wanted the young big man traded for the then 34-year-old Jason Kidd(notes)) started 2007-08 on an All-Star level pace, and then the Lakers lucked into a fantastic deal.
The Lakers acquired Pau Gasol(notes) in February of 2008, went to the NBA Finals that season and won the last two championships.
Bryant was asked what the Lakers would have done if he hadn't spoken out.
"They probably would have just coasted," Bryant said. "But, I wasn't going for that."
Yeah, you were integral, Kobe.
So, if Bryant's little quip is to be believed, the Lakers would have just stuck with Kwame Brown(notes) in the pivot even if the Grizzlies (bleeding money, and ticked off at Gasol for playing poorly following a broken foot sustained during the 2007 World Championships) had not offered a deal sending Gasol to Los Angeles for Laker expiring contracts. They would have just "coasted."
Good god, Kobe. Do you think these journalists are just pretending to write this stuff down?
Remember that, by the time Memphis' talks with Chicago (which were trying to re-sign and trade P.J. Brown and make its own deal with the Grizzlies for Gasol) broke down, the Lakers were tops in their conference, winning heaps of games due to Kobe's typically brilliant play, and Bynum's 13-point, 10-rebound, two-block averages in just 28 minutes of game time. The perimeter defense had improved based on the upgrade from Smush Parker to Derek Fisher(notes) (Fish could actually defend back then), and by February Kobe's trade demand was ancient history. There was no pressure, only an instant "yes" when a desperate Memphis franchise offered to make a deal.
But, sure Kobe. You were the guy that made it all happen. Not Gasol's broken foot. Not the years of borrowed money and big front-office signings (Dick Versace, Chuck Daly, Jerry West) in Memphis. Not the massive, win at all costs payroll that the Grizz put together before the 2005-06 season. Not the retired P.J. Brown's refusal to be part of a sign-and-trade sham. Not Chicago's poor play to start out the 2007-08 campaign. It was your petulant (though understandable) trade demand.
And if the Clippers decide to offer up Blake Griffin(notes) and Eric Gordon(notes) for Kenyon Martin(notes) and J.R. Smith's(notes) expiring contracts next month, you can credit Carmelo Anthony's(notes) trade demand. Because, otherwise, Denver "would have just coasted."