In our latest edition of What if Wednesday, where Society writers give their thoughts on special hypothetical basketball situations, we examine what may have happened if Kobe Bryant was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2007 like he had requested. This week’s segment will be conducted by Martin Soaries, D.J. Allen and B.J. Boyer, our three resident Laker fans.
Fed up with the way things were transpiring in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant formally requested a trade from the Lakers in the summer of 2007. The Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls were all thought to be potential suitors, and the Lakers had actually agreed to a deal with Detroit that would’ve landed them Rip Hamilton, Tayshuan Prince and a glut of draft picks. Why did this deal never come to fruition? Bryant used his no-trade clause to nix it, as he had his sights set on Chicago.
Bryant would ultimately stay put in Los Angeles, capturing two consecutive championships with Pau Gasol as his counterpart. But for the fun of it, let’s speculate on what may have occurred if Bryant ended up in a Bulls uniform:
Martin Soaries (@marley_mcfly)
Obviously this would have taken the Kobe-Michael dichotomy to an inescapable proportion. That goes without saying. An enormous power shift would have occurred in the Eastern Conference and the Bulls might have risen back to power instead of the Lakers.
The negotiations between the Bulls and Lakers in 2007 would have reportedly sent Kobe to Chicago in exchange for some semblance of a package including Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, and Joakim Noah. That move would have basically gutted the Bulls roster, and with the power to veto any trade, Kobe was reportedly only going to Chicago if Luol Deng was still there. Now, the Bulls may not have been considered cream of the crop in the East right away, but building around an ’07 prime Kobe Bryant would have presented similar opportunities as the Lakers had in the coming years. The Bulls would have been much closer to championship success in these last eight years than the Lakers, and Derrick Rose would have ended up on a different team.
D.J. Allen (@DJAllen23)
If Kobe would’ve gotten traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2007, I believe he would have won the same amount of rings. The Chicago Bulls had a pretty solid season the year of 06-07, finishing with a record of 49-33. They were ranked 1st in defensive rating and 21st in offensive rating so Kobe would’ve definitely given them that offensive spark that they needed. But what we have to keep in mind is what the Bulls would have had to give up to receive Bryant in a trade, because we know Dr. Buss was not giving up the future Hall of Famer for free. The Bulls had a roster of guys like Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon and some draft picks as well. So more than likely, Chicago would have had to give up majority of these guys along with picks to be able to get Bryant in the trade. With that being said, I believe he would have went on to have a similar career and eventually would have won rings down the line.
As a die-hard Kobe Bryant fan, I’m happy the trade didn’t work out. Being that he’s always compared to the greatest to ever play the game in Michael Jordan, it would have raised the comparison 100% being that Chicago is where Jordan made his stamp. Bryant would’ve had to deal with a lot of extra pressure playing in the Windy City (not that he couldn’t have handled it) that he wouldn’t have endured in Los Angeles. I believe Kobe Bryant has always had his own lane in term of his career, even though the MJ comparisons were always there. But if he went to Chicago, all he would have heard was how “Kobe is trying to be Michael Jordan.” If he ended his career with five championships, like he probably will now, his career would’ve been viewed on a miniscule scale because he “couldn’t be as good as Mike.”
B.J. Boyer (@wcboyer24)
If Kobe Bryant was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2007, things in the Eastern Conference would have gotten VERY interesting. The Kobe/LeBron debates were beginning to reach their apex around that time, and Bryant being traded to the Central Division would ensure us four Kobe/LeBron matchups a year. Pair this with the potential playoff battles between the two, and their would’ve been ample evidence to answer one of the most compelling basketball questions of the last decade.
Also if Bryant donned a Bulls jersey, the shadow of Michael Jordan would loom much larger than it currently does. Bryant already has a difficult time evading the Jordan comparisons, and playing for the same franchise that Jordan captured six championships with in the 1990’s would only produce more parallels between the two. If Bryant was sent to the Bulls for significant pieces along with a surplus of draft picks and failed to bring a championship to Chicago, he’d probably receive more flack than he already does for trying to emulate Jordan. Like D.J. said, the pressure would’ve definitely on Bryant, but he’s one that tends to thrive while under duress. What lengths would Bryant have gone to win in Chicago? That’s something that is certainly very intriguing to think about.
What do you think would’ve happened if Bryant was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2007? Would he still end up with five rings, or would he be sitting at three for the rest of his career? Hit us on Twitter with thoughts and opinions. @BBallSociety