March 15, 2024

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Kobe Bryant Was Interested in Playing for Grizzlies, But Jerry West Talked Him Out of It

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Kobe Bryant Was Interested in Playing for Grizzlies, But Jerry West Talked Him Out of It

Legendary Memphis Grizzlies player Kobe Bryant?

It doesn’t quite have the same ring as the legendary Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.

But if not for another Lakers legend in 2004, that almost would have been the case.

Bryant was told by Jerry West, who was at the time the Grizzles’ general manager, that he belonged in the Los Angeles region rather than Memphis.

And the reason?

Not really, as West was devoted to his Lakers roots.

“That could have been considered tampering in some ways, I suppose. But because he was constantly present at our house, I didn’t see it as tampering. He ate at my house all the time,” West said on an episode of the “Paul George’s podcast P is available.”

“With him, I had a stronger father figure feeling. I got along great with him.”

One of the biggest free agent signings in NBA history occurred in 2004 with the signing of Bryant. Michael Jordan retired in 2003 after his third NBA season, and LeBron James had just finished his rookie campaign.

Bryant was considering a change after the Lakers’ 2004 NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons, which also featured Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton.

In 2004, Bryant considered joining the Los Angeles Clippers, but he decided against it after O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. In 2007, Bryant subsequently made a trade request to the Chicago Bulls.

“Okay, so now he’s a free agent? His agent at the time was Rob Pelinka, and he then called me. And so I met them in Orange County in a hotel room, and he said he wanted to come to Memphis and play basketball,” West said.

“Are you kidding me, I said as I turned to face him.’ And he responded, “No.’ And I yelled, “Kobe, no, no.” Simply put, you have a place out here.’ And even though he would never have played there, I just want to reassure him that he is under no obligation to play here with me or the Grizzlies. Since he would have never played there, it was never going to happen.”

Prior to his retirement in 2016, Bryant participated in 20 NBA seasons. In January 2020, a helicopter crash claimed his life at the age of 41.


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