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"If he doesn't want to be here, f**k him." - Luke Walton shares why Kobe Bryant's teammates felt betrayed by his trade request in 2007

Given the fact the Lakers chose Kobe over Shaq, his trade request felt like a stab in the back of his teammates and the organization.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and forward Luke Walton

Kobe Bryant and Luke Walton

In 2007, Kobe Bryant wanted to leave the Los Angeles Lakers because he felt they weren't committed to putting him in a position to compete for a championship. Bryant did have his reasons because, after all, the Lakers lost in the first round of the Playoffs in 2006 against the Phoenix Suns, and it didn't help that management, specifically, Jimmy Buss drafted Andrew Bynum in 2005 — which meant they invested in the future rather than a "win-now" type of player.

So in the summer of 2007, the headlines surrounding the Lakers were all about whether they were going to trade Kobe or not, which developed a dark cloud over the team.

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Kobe's teammates were pissed.

According to Luke Walton, who played alongside Bryant in 2007, the team didn't react kindly to Kobe's trade request. They knew the Lakers chose the Black Mamba over Shaquille O'Neal and the trade request indicated that the decision might've been a massive mistake. Walton and the team thought Bryant was patient enough to go through the rebuild process, which was why the trade request felt like a stab to their backs.

"He was not bluffing at all. I was like, what the — we're f**king, we're building something here. What are we talking about? And then it turned into you know, naive phone calls between me and other teammates. 'We said we don't need him anyway.' You know, we'd kind of be, like, laughing, like well, 'We kind of do need him but if he doesn't want to be here, f**k him," Walton said in episode 8 of Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers documentary.

The lopsided trade that saved Bryant's commitment to the Lakers

The decision to draft Bynum may have rubbed Bryant and even Phil Jackson (who was almost against selecting the big man) the wrong way, but the Lakers did their part by trading Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol in 2008 — a franchise-altering trade that is still considered one of the most lopsided deals in NBA history. This move turned Kobe's trade request around and made him realize that Los Angeles was committed to maximizing his prime after all.

The trade also paved the way for the Lakers to win 2 championships in 3 NBA Finals appearances. Not only did this deal solidify Bryant's commitment to Los Angeles, but it also led him to surpass O'Neal in their ring chase after they went their separate ways. 

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