Kobe Bryant had about as much success with one team that any NBA player can have. He led the LA Lakers to five NBA championships. However, players always want their teams to improve. That’s what Kobe Bryant tried doing one year when he reached out to an NBA legend about joining the Lakers. Sure, Bryant played with multiple legends in his career. This includes Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, Pau Gasol, Gary Payton, and Steve Nash. However, he tried playing with a legend that was completely unstoppable in their own unique way. That legend was former Dallas Mavericks star, Dirk Nowitzki.
Kobe Bryant had a ton of success on the LA Lakers
Not many players stay with one franchise throughout their entire career. Kobe Bryant did just that, though, and he had about as much success with the Lakers as one player can have on a single team.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers to three straight NBA championships from 1999-2000 through 2001-02. The two of them then also took the Lakers to the NBA Finals again with guys like Karl Malone and Gary Payton in 2003-04. LA, however, lost to the Detroit Pistons that year.
After the Shaq-Kobe era, Bryant then made three more appearances in the NBA Finals and won two more championships with Pau Gasol.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers ended up winning five NBA championships together. He was also one of the most statistically accomplished players in league history. Bryant ultimately earned 18 All-Star selections and won the league MVP award in 2007-08. He also led the NBA in scoring in two different seasons, as he scored as much as 35.4 in 2005-06. The star from Lower Merion High School is also fourth in NBA history in total points with 33,643.
While Bryant certainly had a ton of success in LA, he maybe could have had a little more had he teamed up with one NBA legend.
Kobe Bryant almost teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki
Like Kobe Bryant did with the Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki spent his entire career with one NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks. Because of that, Nowitzki recently spoke to ESPN about Stephen Curry, another player who has just played on one team his entire career, to celebrate Curry becoming the Warriors’ all-time leading scorer.
Nowitzki ultimately revealed that Kobe Bryant once tried recruiting him to the Lakers.
“I never really got many pitches because everybody knew I kind of loved Dallas and I wanted this to work,” Nowitzki said, according to ESPN. “I remember Kobe Bryant one year reached out to me, it was obviously an honor. I think this was after I won the championship and my four-year deal was done. Kobe was still doing his thing in LA. We talked, we texted back and forth.”
However, Bryant ultimately received a firm rejection.
“I told him, ‘Listen, I’m sorry and you know how it is. Dallas is my city and my home and it would feel super weird to put a different uniform on,’” Nowitzki said, according to ESPN. “And I think he totally understood that; I think he respected me more after that.”
So, if this was after Nowitzki’s deal that he won a championship on, then Kobe reached out to him after the 2013-14 season. Both stars were near the ends of their respective careers at that point, but Nowitzki had just averaged 21.7 points per game in 2013-14. Bryant only played in six games that season. He averaged 22.3 points per game the year after that, though, and 17.6 in his final season in 2015-16.
No, he wasn’t the Kobe Bryant that we all loved to watch, but the Lakers were an awful team in those years. Had they had Dirk Nowitzki, though, maybe they could have had one or two more runs to the playoffs.
We’ll never know what a Dirk-Kobe pairing would have maybe looked like. This wasn’t the first time that they almost teamed up, though.
Dirk and Kobe almost teamed up on the Mavericks in 2007
Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki actually almost teamed up several years before the scenario discussed above. They were both still in their primes, too. It was just almost on the Dallas Mavericks.
Bryant actually requested a trade from the Lakers in 2007, and LA reportedly reached a deal with the Pistons. Bryant, however, didn’t want to go to Detroit, according to Sports Illustrated. They also almost reportedly sent him to the Bulls, but Bryant reportedly thought that the trade would have made Chicago’s roster too weak.
Additionally, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban once said that his team had a deal in place to bring Bryant to Dallas. It ultimately “fell apart,” though. However, had they gotten it done, Kobe and Dirk, in the primes, would have been absolutely unstoppable together.
Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki may have never played together, but they both became NBA legends on their own.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference