- CLUTCH Summary: Rare in the modern NBA, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant stayed with one team during his entire career.
- However, lost in the shuffle of history is the fact he almost once played for another NBA franchise.
- What-if scenarios are entertaining, and this might be the best of them all: What-if Kobe Bryant played for any of the following NBA teams instead of the Los Angeles Lakers.
When looking back at certain players’ careers, fans are often left wondering — what if? What if Jordan never retired to play baseball or if Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant never feuded? As great as Kobe was, could he have been better? His skills were unmatched but since he’s always compared to Jordan, Kobe never got the worldwide recognition Jordan did. But what if he was to have played in another city, leading another franchise instead of the Los Angeles Lakers?
What would he be like in a New York Knicks uniform? Would the colors of the Boston Celtics have looked good on him? With the way free agency is today, would Kobe have stayed loyal to the Lakers? We’ll take a look at five teams fans would have loved to see Kobe play for at some point in his career.
Philly is home for Kobe Bryant. The city still loves him but how could they cheer for him while he was beating the 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals? But what if he had made his way to Philly? There are too many different scenarios to play out here but for argument’s sake, let’s say it happened. What if he was on that 2001 squad with Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, and Larry Brown?
As far as that team made it, only Iverson was going to carry the heavy load. But if Kobe was there, think of how different things would have been. Two great offensive players but it was that Sixers’ defense that drove them to the Finals. Pair Iverson in the backcourt with Kobe’s skills on both ends of the floor, and it’s very possible they would have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
Kobe and Pop together, what a beautiful site that would’ve been. But also take into account what Kobe joining the trio of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan would mean. The Spurs were already winning titles but they never had a player of Bryant’s ability when things got tight.
Duncan was clutch and Parker and Ginobili had their moments but adding the Mamba, would have given the Spurs a true Dynasty no team in the modern game could match. Bryant’s high-flying approach paired with the fundamentally sound Spurs would be a match made in heaven. As great as Dncas was, how many seasons did he spend with a player who commanded a double-team nightly? His scoring average would have dropped but the Spurs would have easily won 7-8 titles during their run.
Just for one season, this would have been the most dominant team in NBA history. Forget the Jordan-led Bulls and the Curry-led Warriors. Imagine Kobe, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden on the floor at the same time. Let’s not forget adding Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green to the mix. Throw Kobe at SF and Durant at PF, and that loss to the Miami Heat never happens.
Granted, the Thunder Big 3 were young but the talent was there. What they were missing was a veteran player and at that time, Kobe was still at the top of his game. There was no one on the Heat who could check him. The dribble penetration of all four players and the perimeter games of Kobe, Durant, and Harden would have driven the Heat nuts. That core would have won 4-5 titles before Sam Presti decided to blow it up.
For one obvious reason. Just to play with LeBron James. Nike tried to force their hands to meet in a championship but LeBron could not do his part and get the Cavs there. But what if he played alongside Kobe? This would have to be before the Heat Big 3 and if so, it’s safe to assume that team would never have come to light. LeBron has done great work with the teammates he’s had but not even Dwayne Wade was on Bryant’s level.
Think about that 2006-07 Cavs team in which LeBron led to the Final. What if Kobe was to replace Larry Hughes? Would they still lose to the San Antonio Spurs? This is another team that despite not having a host of All-Stars, they were one of the top teams in the NBA in terms of defense. While middle of the pack offensively, Kobe would have changed that easily. A Kobe Bryant and LeBron James pairing would be everything fans hate about the NBA now. But it would have been fun to watch.
New York Knicks
Outside of Los Angeles, there is no other bigger place to play basketball than New York City. The Knicks were and are in still need of a big name to attach themselves to. While Carmelo Anthony tried his best, his name will never be as huge as Kobe Bryant’s. Would Kobe had brought a title to NY? Doubt it, but the advertising guys on Madison Avenue would have made Kobe’s name as big as Jordan’s.
On the court, things may have been different. Kobe’s presence and the lure of Madison Square Garden would have drawn other top free agents to MSG. If the Knicks would have found a way to pair Kobe and Melo on that 54-win team in 2012, Manhattan would have shut down the city for days trying to clean up from that championship parade. If only.