How Close Was Kobe Bryant to Following in Michael Jordan’s Footsteps and Playing for the Bulls?

Kobe Bryant spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the LA Lakers and established himself as the greatest player in franchise history and the second-best shooting guard of all time. Only Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is ahead of Bryant in the all-time shooting guard rankings.

Many people forget, though, that Bryant–who pattered his game after Jordan–almost followed in MJ’s footsteps by playing for the Bulls not once, but twice.

Kobe Bryant was almost a member of the Bulls in 2004

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In the summer of 2004, Kobe Bryant was a free agent and had goals of playing for the franchise Michael Jordan built, the Bulls. Chicago chairman Jerry Reinsdorf flew to Newport Beach, Calif., for a meeting with Bryant and his agent, Rob Pelinka. Reports at the time said the Bulls and Lakers were working on completing a sign-and-trade deal.

Bryant and his wife went to Chicago to look at houses and schools for their kids. It appeared The Black Mamba’s run with the Lakers was coming to an end and that he was going to channel his inner Jordan by playing for the Bulls.

However, Bryant wound up staying with the Lakers after Shaquille O’Neal requested a trade and was traded to the Miami Heat. Kobe signed a seven-year, $136.4 million contract with the Lakers.

O’Neal won the 2006 title with the Heat next to Dwyane Wade, while Bryant and the Lakers struggled in the rugged Western Conference. Shaq now had four rings, one more than Kobe.

Kobe Bryant was putting up stellar numbers for the Lakers after Shaquille O’Neal was traded, but he wanted to win championships. Cut from the same cloth as Michael Jordan, Bryant only cared about one thing and that was winning. Sensing that the Lakers weren’t serious about contending for a title, Kobe demanded a trade in 2007 and again had Chicago as his top choice.

Kobe Bryant wanted to get traded to the Bulls in 2007

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Kobe Bryant asked the Lakers to trade him to the Bulls in 2007. However, he wanted Chicago to keep Luol Deng, the main player LA desired from the Bulls.

Per multiple reports in 2007, Bryant threatened to veto almost any deal in which Deng would be included. Although the superstar guard wanted to play for the Bulls as Michael Jordan did, he didn’t want to suit up for a rebuilding Chicago squad.

The Bulls came close to acquiring Bryant in 2004 and 2007, but the franchise could never get it done. Kobe ended up winning the 2009 and 2010 championship with the Lakers. He retired from the NBA with one less ring than Jordan, who won six with the Bulls.

Kobe Bryant finished his Lakers career with averages of 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. The LA franchise retired both his Nos. 8 and 24 jerseys.

The Lakers icon was Michael Jordan’s little brother

During Kobe Bryant’s public memorial at Staples Center last year, Michael Jordan called the Lakers icon his “little brother.” The two were very close off the court.

Once during a game at the United Center in Chicago, a young Bryant asked Jordan how to shoot his patented fadeaway jumper. Not only did Jordan give Bryant advice, but he told Kobe to give him a call whenever he needed help with anything.

In The Last Dance docuseries, Bryant said he wouldn’t have won five championships with the Lakers without Jordan’s guidance. Kobe also said he hated when basketball fans would say he could beat MJ in his prime. Bryant’s famous line about Jordan was, “What you get from me is from him.”

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant will forever be linked. Their competitive drives may never be matched again.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.