Kobe Bryant is considered one of the most iconic athletes in history, primarily due to his five NBA titles and 20-year career spent exclusively with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In an interview on Tuesday with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban revealed that Bryant was almost traded to the Mavericks in 2007.
“I thought [the Kobe trade] was done.” 👀
Mark Cuban gives the back story of how the Mavs were close to trading for the Mamba in the B/R app 🤯
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 16, 2022
The Lakers had dominated the early 2000s, claiming three consecutive NBA championships led by Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. However, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, and the Lakers went through several unsuccessful seasons.
Los Angeles missed the playoffs in 2004-05, then suffered back-to-back first-round playoff losses to the Phoenix Suns.
In contrast, the Mavericks were coming off an appearance in the 2006 NBA Finals, where they fell to O’Neal and the Heat. They followed that up with a 67–15 record in the 2006–07 regular season, thanks to an MVP-winning season from Dirk Nowitzki.
Meanwhile, Bryant grew disgruntled with the Lakers’ lack of success and infamously demanded a trade in 2007.
Then-Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss reluctantly began to explore the trade market for Bryant, and several offers reportedly started coming in, including from Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks owner told Rooks that he negotiated terms of a trade with Buss, going as far as saying he “thought it was done.” He suggested someone who had nothing to do with basketball may have played a role in the trade never materializing.
“I was going back and forth with Dr. Buss … he said, ‘Look, I think we might be parting ways with Kobe.’ I remember it vividly because there was a PA (production assistant) named Elvis, and he was ‘Kobe, Kobe, Kobe’ all the time. So it started to happen, and I started telling [Elvis] about it, and that was the kiss of death, ’cause the minute I told Elvis, it all fell apart,” said Cuban.
In the end, Bryant played the remainder of his career in Los Angeles. The Lakers traded for All-Star center Pau Gasol to pair with Bryant in February 2008, and he would turn out to be a vital piece as the team made three straight NBA Finals appearances, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
The Mavericks ultimately won the championship in 2011, led by Nowitzki. Dallas even eliminated the Lakers and Bryant in the second round of the playoffs en route to the title.
Cuban added that he believes then-Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak convinced Bryant to change his mind about wanting a trade.
“I guess Mitch Kupchak talked Kobe into staying. When a guy that’s key to your team wants to leave, you’re going to do everything you can to keep him,” said Cuban.
Meanwhile, Cuban can only wonder what a Mavericks team featuring the Hall of Fame pairing of Bryant and Nowitzki would have looked like.