It is no secret at all that Kobe Bryant & Michael Jordan's bond was as tight as anyone else who played in the NBA. While the two played during different eras of the game, there was a short time their careers overlapped. In fact, during this time, Bryant actually wanted to team up with Mike on the Wizards during his last stint in the league. (via Michael Lee of The Washington Post)
When Kobe Bryant made his first public comments after signing a two-year extension in November 2013, the Los Angeles Lakers were in Washington and the future Hall of Famer held a news conference at Verizon Center while a Washington Wizards banner hung behind him and a microphone with the Wizards’ “dc” logo rested in front of him. The image gave Wizards fans a chance to indulge a fantasy in which Bryant collected championship rings a few blocks from the White House instead of Los Angeles.
Very few know that this seemingly laughable fantasy was nearly reality: More than a decade ago, Bryant wanted to get away from Los Angeles, and the team he wanted to join was the Wizards, where he would join forces with his mentor Michael Jordan.
Those plans evaporated when then-Wizards owner Abe Pollin parted ways with Jordan in 2003, a year before Bryant became a free agent, but as Wizards fans pine over the idea of Kevin Durant coming to Washington as a free agent, the near-miss that was Kobe-to-DC finally can be shared.
“That’s true,” Bryant confirmed recently. “A long time ago? Yeah.”
“I’ve always been very big on having mentors, on having muses and I’ve been really, really big on that. Being around guys who have done it before and done it at a high level and always tried to pick their brains and always tried to absorb knowledge. Obviously, being in that situation [with the Wizards], it would’ve helped having to be around [Michael Jordan] every day and so on.”
“The challenge had been thrown down upon me, of not being able to win without Shaq. A public challenge never really bothered me too much, but he made a couple of comments as well. I think he called me Penny Hardaway Part 2 or something like that. So that’s what [ticked] me off,” Bryant said. “Then it was like, ‘Listen, you know the step back that I took to help us win championships. Let’s not get [expletive] confused. I can dominate on my own. I decided to stay here and win championships and sacrifice MVPs and scoring titles and all that stuff.’ So once that was said, it was like a line in the sand now.”
It was an almost perfect set up. With things in L.A. falling apart, what better place to land than in the nation’s capital, teaming up with a mentor and friend. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards for Bryant. The Wizards didn’t have the pieces to make a trade and Jordan’s third retirement came before Bryant was able to join as a free agent.