Lakers Wanted LeBron James to Replace Kobe Bryant as Early as 2007

Published 04/25/2020, 7:29 AM EDT

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are mighty icons of the NBA. Their capacity to call games with their ability is almost unmatched. Rollback to 2007, and you can see Bryant playing with the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 22-year-old James was thriving with Cleveland, while Kobe was experiencing a rocky relationship with his Lakers team. Bryant and his team had failed to make a mark ever since Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. This questioned his abilities to carry the Lakers to another championship glory. 

“At that time, the Lakers had to do something. I was just losing faith in what they were trying to do. It was like I was a meal ticket,” Bryant had told ESPN in 2016. “You come out and score 40, 50 points, fill the seats, we’re going to keep the payroll at a minimum, generate revenue. It’s like, look, listen, I am not with that, dude. I have to win without Shaq. I’ve got to do it. We’ve got to do something.”

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As a result of Kobe’s outburst, the Lakers planned a deal to trade out the unsettled player. As he had a good relationship with the management, Bryant even listed a few teams where he wished to go. 

Lakers wanted to trade Kobe Bryant and bring in LeBron James in 2007

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According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the LA Lakers once called the office of the Cavs to investigate if they would be willing to trade James in return for Bryant. The Lakers posted this offer, hoping to replace the Mamba with a fiery LeBron.

The Cavs, however, did not want to cash in on Bryant. They did not want to bring him in at the expense of their best player. According to the Cavs’ front office, no one had even contacted them about a possible trade deal asking for LeBron James. He was “untouchable.”

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They wanted to keep their rising star for a few more seasons until it was time. Despite a huge star like Bryant being involved in the trade, they were reluctant. James, talking about the expired offer in 2016, said, “If you give up one big fish, you got to get a big fish, too.”

Two guys who never faced each other in the playoffs could have ended up swapping teams way before LeBron James joined the Lakers in 2018. It brings up a tremendous ‘What if?’ situation just like the several other crazy trade deals that never went forward.

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Arjun Athreya

2180 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.

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