Kobe Bryant spent his entire illustrious 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. There were a couple of instances where his status with the franchise was put into question, but he stuck it through. Following his tragic passing this past weekend, it has made way to more personal stories and anecdotes about Bryant shared for further remembrance of the future first Ballot Hall of Famer. There was one instance shared that could have changed how the back end of his career unfolded.
Kobe Bryant’s NBA career
For two decades, Bryant took the floor as a member of the Lakers that saw him reach great heights with the franchise both individually and collectively with the team.
He had placed himself in the records in many regards, along with becoming arguably the greatest player in franchise history. That saw him become an 18-time All-Star, a five-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection, nine-time All-Defensive First-Team member, and three-time All-Defensive Second Team selection, among others.
Bryant also holds many Lakers’ all-time record while finishing third on the all-time regular-season scoring list and fourth on the all-time postseason scoring list. His legacy has been etched into stone as one of the greatest players to play the game.
There was a point in the back half of his career where he believed his time with the Lakers could have come to an end sooner than expected.
How Kobe Bryant could have joined the Knicks
During the latter years of Bryant’s career, the Lakers struggled to find success on the court that matched anywhere near what he had through much of his playing days.
After he tore his Achilles tendon, Los Angeles failed to reach the playoffs in any of his final three campaigns, which saw the team win no more than 27 games in any year. That set the tone around Bryant’s ability at the stage of his career that his best days were behind. Months after tearing his Achilles, the Lakers inked him to a two-year, $48.5 million deal in November 2013.
The long-term commitment to Bryant wasn’t surprising, but the amount it was for raised some eyebrows. That, combined with the Lakers struggling on the court, it led him to voice to NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski during that time that he believed then-team president Jim Buss could use their one-time contract amnesty on him.
Once, we were having dinner at Javier’s in Newport Beach and out of nowhere began one of our strangest conversations: Kobe was convinced that Lakers president Jim Buss wanted to amnesty the remaining money and years on his contract and force him to leave the Lakers. He had no evidence, just a hunch.
“That is never happening,” I told him. “They’d burn the city down.”
“I think he wants to do it,” Kobe insisted.
Well, what would happen then?
“I’ll go to New York and play for Phil [Jackson].”
The fact that Bryant believed that could be possible seems crazy looking back, but the team was heading through a difficult stretch and locked in a lucrative contract with him. There was never any legitimate traction in that regard, which saw the team wind up using that exception on Metta World Peace.
Kobe Bryant as a Knick?
Although Bryant had a great deal of respect for the Lakers and grew up a fan of the franchise, he also admired playing at Madison Square Garden.
Had the Lakers gone that route with the amnesty, he would have been more than comfortable playing for the Knicks in one of his favorite arenas. The presence of Phil Jackson with the organization would have been more significant while the fan base and city would have embraced him with open arms. Things could have taken an interesting turn that could have seen him paired alongside Carmelo Anthony in the final years of his career.
It’s one of those what-if situations that could have changed how he ended his career, but Bryant voiced over the years that he wouldn’t have wanted to finish his career with any other team.