The Los Angeles Lakers have lost all four games this season, with Bryant showing his one-of-a-kind skill that has made him a future Hall of Famer—even at 36 and coming off two major injuries. A report surmised that the Knicks would deal for Bryant: Amari Stoudemire, Tim Hardaway Jr. and others for the five-time champion. The move would reunite Bryant with longtime teammate Derrick Fisher, who is in his first year as coach, and Phil Jackson, the Knicks’ president.
Bryant is having none of it. He told Yahoo Sports: “I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career,” Bryant said. “But that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers.”
Loyal, maybe. But in 2007 Bryant, frustrated that management was not doing enough to build a strong base of support, demanded a trade from the Lakers. They won two more championships since then and he has redoubled his commitment to the franchise.
“I bleed purple and gold,” he said.
Imagine, for fun, Bryant playing his last two years in New York, at Madison Square Garden, where a few years ago he dropped 61 in an epic performance. He’d be center stage on the game’s biggest platform for excellence, in front of rabid fans who’d cherish the opportunity to witness his brilliance from up close. He’d have Carmelo Anthony to relieve some of the scoring burden that could wear him down in L.A. J.R. Smith could give him relief, too, and the change to the East would give Bryant a realistic chance to be competitive in his final years—something that just does not appear on the horizon in Los Angeles.
In the Eastern Conference, the Knicks with Bryant could challenge perceived frontrunners Chicago and Cleveland. But Bryant and Anthony would be a lethal duo that could—with the country’s largest city and fan base supporting it—make some big playoff noise.
Meanwhile, the Lakers could unload Stoudamire’s huge contract that expires after this season and have significant room to begin a massive rebuilding that cannot truly take place until Bryant retires. A win/win situation.
The reality, at least for now, is that Bryant will labor with the under-talented Lakers. He will show a lot of his remarkable gifts, score big on most nights (as long as he avoids injury) and generally function as the “Black Mamba”—only with few victories to show for his effort.
Still, trading Bryant would amount to an uprising in L.A. He is, deservedly so, an iconic figure, beloved perhaps more than any Laker in the storied history of the franchise. Trading him, no matter what it does for the future of the franchise, would be considered catastrophic among Laker nation.
Still, there will come a point when the losing eats at Bryant too much. He’s too smart to alienate his enormous fan base by demanding a trade. But maybe he would not refute one if it were presented to him. Kobe Bryant playing in New York for the Knicks would enhance the NBA season ten-fold. It probably won’t happen.
But we can dream.