What If Kobe Bryant Was Traded To The Chicago Bulls In 2007?Basketball, J. Tinsley — By J. Tinsley on March 7, 2012 at 2:30 am
“I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there’s no other alternative, you know?” — Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant’s public demand to be shipped out of town in 2007, while a guest on The Stephen A. Smith Show, was a ground-breaking story. Here was Bean, arguably the League’s best player at the time, stuck in the phase of his career where pundits doubted if he’d ever win a title without Shaq (who had won one with Dwyane Wade in Miami a year before). There was panic in Kobe. He knew, as an 11-year veteran, more seasons were behind him than in front, and something had to change quick, fast, and in a hurry. The image of the Kobe we see now - the possessed work-a-holic whose determination to win conjures memories of Michael Jordan – was preceded by the “selfish superstar who would never trust his teammates enough to be called champion again” stage. Yes, people, there was a time when Kobe was the only player in history with three rings and none of them meant jack sh*t in the eyes of many.
We all know how the story played out. Kobe never left L.A. – and why would he? He’s the king of that city. The Lakers eventually got it right and traded a lifetime cannabis club membership and a pack of wine black and milds (which became Marc Gasol) for Pau Gasol. Kobe, Pau and the crew eventually go on to appear in three consecutive Finals, winning a pair. But let’s have fun and play the greatest game sports ever conceived, because it’s March, and the playoffs don’t start for another month and a half. I present to you the “what if” game.
1. The Makeup Of The Chicago Bulls
So Kobe’s traded to Chi-Town for Loul Deng, Tyrus Thomas and, maybe, Ben Wallace. It’s not equal compensation, but at least the Lakers get something out of the deal and building blocks for the future (which we’ll get to later). This means Bryant’s looking at a tentative lineup of Kirk Hinrich, himself, Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah. Ben Gordon coming off the bench, too. That’s not enough to win the East (especially since Boston snagged Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett that same summer), but it does make Chicago instantly more competitive and an attractive pick for nationally-televised games. Plus, there’s the entire “Kobe in Chicago going shot-for-shot with Jordan’s legacy” dynamic, which you know for a fact he would have relished. Wearing #24, too? I almost wish this would’ve happened.
Now, keep in mind, Chicago probably ends up in the playoffs that next season with Kobe landing in the MVP conversation. The Bulls have their first true megastar since Mike Jeffery and Harold’s Chicken somehow finds a way to name a sauce after him. All seems well and they appear one more piece (maybe Gasol comes to Chicago? It’s a reach, so what?) from a legitimate championship contender. This mean’s one thing that you may have forgotten in my babbling…
Yeah, there’s no way Chicago snags the number one overall pick in 2008, which means the Miami Heat land in that spot. Suddenly, things get crazy once you picture a Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion trio in South Beach. Now, with all due respect to the season Michael Beasley put together at Kansas State in 2007-2008, franchise-esque point guards (which Rose was touted as) only come around once in a blue moon. Suddenly, these Bulls/Heat match ups in 2008-2009 have storylines oozing out the edges with Kobe vs. Wade and Wade/Rose returning to their hometown.
Given how Rose’s career has progressed over the years, it wouldn’t have been a bad pick at all for Miami, and the possibility of a Rose/Wade fast break is pretty damn cutthroat. Suddenly, we’re looking at power struggles out East with Kobe’s Bulls, Wade/Rose’s Heat, the “Big Three’s” Boston (plus Rondo), Dwight’s Magic (that 2009 team should have never removed Rafer Alston from the starting lineup in the ’09 Finals) LeBron’s Cavs and Detroit’s last stand. Sound like the world’s greatest cluster*ck yet? Of course, it does.