Former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant revealed that he was ready to go to the Chicago Bulls in 2004 before the Los Angeles Lakers traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat.
Though the dynamic duo of Shaq & Kobe had already won three titles together, after losing to the Detroit Pistons 4-1 in the 2004 NBA Finals, Bryant wanted to break away from O’Neal. Little did Kobe know that the Lakers were already trying to trade Shaq.
The Lakers had struggled through their first two seasons without Shaquille O’Neal, and the war of words that played out in the media made Bryant feel like Lakers brass was blaming him for breaking up Los Angeles’ dynasty. Bryant did not hide his desire to be traded.
At the onset of the summer of 2007, Kobe was all over radio and television saying he was done with the Lakers, who had just been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Suns.
We were looking for places in Chicago, man, we were flying up there to meet with [Bulls owner Jerry] Reinsdorf and [vice president of basketball operations John] Paxson,” Bryant acknowledged. “Vanessa [Bryant’s wife] signed off on moving to Lake Forest, I think it was.
“We were looking for homes in Chicago,” Bryant added. “Researching schools, places to live.”
Bryant was the only player in the NBA who held a no-trade clause at the time, and his veto power clouded over every trade rumor. Mainly, the Lakers wanted 22-year-old forward Luol Deng in any package for Bryant, but Kobe didn’t want to go to Chicago if Deng wasn’t going to play with him.
Rumors surfaced Kobe demanded a trade to Chicago in 2007, a deal that never went through. O’Neal went to Miami where he won a championship two seasons later with Dwyane Wade.
The Lakers eventually added Pau Gasol in 2008—and Bryant added two more titles. But the prevailing belief before he re-signed with the Lakers in the summer of 2004 was that he might sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Bulls were 49-33 in 2007, fresh off their first playoff series win since the Jordan era. Instead of building on that success, the Bulls cratered. They finished with the eighth-worst record in the NBA, but the ping-pong ball bounced their way in the lottery, allowing them to draft Derrick Rose.