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Grant Hill opens up on his rumored trade to the Lakers for Kobe Bryant — ”It could've been the case”

One of the biggest what-ifs in NBA history.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant stands alongside Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill

Kobe Bryant and Grant Hill

After more than two decades, Grant Hill finally opened up about the rumored trade that would’ve made him a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

From what had been said about it, the trade idea took place in 1999, when Hill’s future with the Detroit Pistons was uncertain as he was approaching free agency. Of course, a player of Hill’s stature would also require a big name, so the Lakers were believed to have proposed none other than Kobe Bryant.

Hill shares his side of the story

In a recent interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Hill was asked to share his take on the rumored blockbuster trade. According to the seven-time NBA All-Star, nothing was concrete about it, and the only thing vivid for him was that he remembers hearing “maybe” then Lakers head coach Phil Jackson liked the idea.

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I was a pending free agent,” he continued. “And you would think if they [the Lakers] were really seriously going to trade for me, they would wanna know If I would re-sign with them [the Pistons] and this being the L.A. Lakers. So I never heard that, I don’t remember that. It could’ve been the case. But it sounds that maybe Phil Jackson might have been interested in the idea but nothing ever came off it further than him sort of maybe pushing for it.

What led to it

1999 was Jackson’s first season with the Lakers, and at the time, though Bryant was already a notable player, the “Zen Master” wasn’t really convinced that he was the franchise’s future.

This narrative suggested that it was the reason why Bryant was mainly a bench player during Jackson’s maiden campaign with the “Purple and Gold.” As expected, the young “Bean” did not like it.

Jackson said Bryant told him ‘I don’t see myself starting now... I don’t want to be known as a bench player.'

Bryant then was prompted to request a trade, and that led to the thought of a possible swap of stars- Bryant for Hill. It didn’t take long for Jackson to give it a nod, but apparently, he didn’t push for it hard enough as well.

For a few minutes, I thought about taking the Pistons up on an offer they made to trade Kobe for Grant Hill. Make that a few seconds,” Jackson said, per Charlie Rosen’s 2016 book.

Looking back at it now, we couldn’t help but imagine what would’ve played out had the trade pushed through. Indeed, there are a lot of possible scenarios, but we’re fortunate to hear what Hill had to say about it. Sadly, Bryant is no longer here with us to also share his thoughts on the matter.

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