Bryant wanted out of LA

NBA Basketball

Since announcing his retirement last year, Kobe Bryant has been hailed as a Los Angeles icon. But if a 21-year-old Bryant had his way, that never would have happened.

Ex-Lakers coach Phil Jackson says Bryant asked to be traded during the 1999-2000 NBA season, and that the Pistons were willing to offer up superstar Grant Hill.

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"Kobe was only averaging about 19 points per game," Jackson said, via Today's Fastbreak. "So Kobe called Jerry West and wanted to know how Jerry and Elgin Baylor both averaged 30 points. Kobe also said that he wanted to be traded."

At that point, Hill was a perennial All-Star and one of the most marketable players in all of sports. He was also a full six years older than Bryant.

"Of course, Jerry told me about the conversation. And, for a few minutes I thought about taking the Pistons up on an offer they made to trade Kobe for Grant Hill. Make that a few seconds," Jackson said.

A Bryant-Hill swap would have certainly altered NBA history. Hill might have been an even better compliment to Shaquille O'Neal, who eventually teamed up with Bryant for three consecutive NBA titles. That's if he was healthy, which of course was a problem for Hill the rest of his career.

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Bryant, meanwhile, would have arrived in Detroit as a budding superstar with limitless potential and the green light to shoot as much as he wanted. And while noth

ing would have made him happier than that at the time, there's no guarantees he would have been able to win an NBA championship as the lead guy. Just ask Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady. 

That swap could have altered the NBA for quite some time. A healthy Hill-O'Neal combo could have extended the Lakers dynasty from three straight NBA rings to maybe four or five. Or, if Hill's ankle problems re-emerged, perhaps the Kings battle the Spurs for Western Conference supremacy. Maybe we get several classic Bryant vs. Iverson or Bryant vs. McGrady battles in the Eastern Conference.

Bryant, of course, would go on to spend his entire NBA career with the Lakers. Hill would leave the Pistons the following summer to sign with the Magic, where his career would ultimately turn into one of the greatest "what-ifs" of all time.