In 2007, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant requested a trade because he felt the front office wasn’t maximizing his prime years. Bryant’s reasons were valid because the purple and gold couldn’t get past the first round of the Playoffs, and they drafted Andrew Bynum in 2005— a questionable decision that irked Bryant and Phil Jackson.
So in the summer of 2007, Los Angeles, led by general manager Mitch Kupchak had to look for trade partners to follow through with Bryant’s request. Kupchak was willing to let go of Bryant on one condition: Make sure the Lakers got the same return for Bryant’s value in the trade.
The Dallas Mavericks weren’t an option though
According to Kupchak, the front office and Bryant had several meetings during the summer. They explained to Kobe that the Lakers wanted a fair deal and to acquire the other team’s best player because, after all, Bryant was the best in the world then. Kupchak did his due diligence by reaching out to every team in the league but admitted that the Dallas Mavericks (who were rumored to be super close to acquiring Bryant’s services) weren’t an option.
“We never had a deal with Dallas. Yeah, you can’t always believe Mark [Cuban], ok? And you can tell him I said so,” Kupchak revealed in episode 9 of Legacy: the true story of the LA lakers documentary.
To convince Bryant to stay, Kupchak held another meeting with his agent (at that time) Rob Pelinka, Jimmy, and Jerry Buss. They told Bryant that the teams they negotiated with didn’t offer the Lakers what they wanted, and that’s when Bryant realized that trading him was harder than he thought. Kobe didn’t want to go through the same situation he had to deal with on another team, especially if Los Angeles asked for the opposing team’s best player in return.
Mark Cuban’s side of the story
Kupchak probably didn’t think Dallas was an option for a potential trade deal because Cuban revealed he was only in contact with Jerry Buss. The Mavericks owner assumed he was close to acquiring Bryant because his conversation and negotiation with Buss were progressing; all they needed to do was finalize the deal.
“Sometimes, teams will hypothetically throw something out and then the other team will say, sure I’ll do it. Then you’ll start working through some of the details and then somebody will back out. That’s what I just expected to happen with this deal. But then I talked to Jerry [Buss] and usually when two owners talk, it’s going to be a done deal. That’s kind of commenting the deal right? Owner to Owner not GM to GM saying you know, we’ve got a deal and bam, this is going to happen,” Cuban said in the same episode.
Ultimately, Bryant’s trade request never came to fruition despite a cloudy and busy summer for the Lakers in 2007. They eventually proved their commitment to Bryant by acquiring Pau Gasol and forming a championship team around them that went to the NBA Finals 3 times and won back-to-back championships. The Lakers managed to save their relationship with Bryant by earning his trust again after his trade request.