Remembering when Kobe almost joined the LA Clippers

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12: Kobe Bryant
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12: Kobe Bryant /

It was the summer of 2004.  The Pistons had just beaten the Lakers in the NBA Finals and free agency was abuzz.  July 1, 2004 marked the first day of free agent eligibility and the Black Mamba himself was up for grabs.

Kobe Bryant, a Laker lifer, at the time wasn’t happy with everything in Lakerland and was considering his options in the league.  Tensions between him and Shaq had reached its apex and his relationship with head coach Phil Jackson had crumbled.  Predictably teams lined up for meetings with the superstar.

Kobe took meetings with teams including the Bulls and the Knicks but had narrowed his choice down to two options.  Bryant had decided we wanted to stay in his NBA home of Los Angeles and was considering either the Lakers or the Clippers.  LA Clippers fans everywhere salivated.

Fans like me had spent the prior eight years cursing the name of Kobe for killing the Clippers over and over.  But then we had a chance to see him in our jersey, next to our new exciting rookie Shaun LivingstonQuentin Richardson had signed with Phoenix, and Kobe would be the ultimate upgrade from the loss of a fan favorite.

Though the Lakers were able to offer Bryant more years and money the Clippers had a young roster and the potential of a new home.  The Clippers had played with the idea of moving to Anaheim since 1996.  Clips had played a handful of games in the Anaheim pond in the 90s to larger crowds than their games in the Sports Arena.  The lease was up at Staples Center and Anaheim rumors had begun again.

Ultimately, Kobe decided to stay with the Lakers after they traded Shaq to Miami and fired Phil Jackson.  It’s fun to think about what the Kobe-Clippers union would have looked like.  The lineup of Shaun Livingston, Kobe Bryant, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, and Chris Kaman would have been highlight central.  But alas, it never happened, changing the future for both teams, most notably with the Clippers possibly never landing the high-flying Blake Griffin.