Jerry West told a curious story about Kobe Bryant and the time when the late Lakers legend was close to joining their archrivals Clippers. The ‘Logo’ joined TNT’s Inside the NBA on Tuesday night to discuss Kobe’s life and his achievements.
Further, West talked about the time Bryant was about to sign with the Clippers, with the executive telling him "you can't play for" former owner Donald Sterling.
"I remember when he was going to leave the Lakers, and I've never really mentioned this to anyone, he was going to come and sign with the Clippers, who I'm now involved with as a consultant. And I told him, 'Kobe, under no circumstances can you do this,'" West said on Inside the NBA."And he was mad at everyone, the Lakers, the owner, everyone else. I said 'Kobe you can't go play with the Clippers. You can't play for that owner, period.' We had two conversations about it."
Kobe himself had revealed he was set to switch to the Clips in 2004. At that time, his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal was anything but good and the Black Mamba was a free agent ready to find a new team in the association.
Legendary broadcaster Ralph Lawler said last year that Kobe verbally committed to signing with the Clippers in 2004 before he decided to re-sign with the Lakers. He'd finish his career having played 20 seasons in a Lakers uniform.
"They made their pitch to Kobe and it was a very strong one because it seemed apparent to everyone at that point that Kobe and Shaq just could no longer co-exist," Lawler told Andrew Grief of the Los Angeles Times. "Then it's time for Kobe to excuse himself and go and Donald Sterling walks him to the door expressing concern. 'Is this really going to happen?'
"Kobe turned to him and—this is an exact quote that I've had repeated to me by multiple people—he said, 'Don't worry, I'm a Clipper.' So he walked out the door and [the Clippers] are all high-fiving each other thinking, 'By God, we've done it.'"
West advised Kobe in 2004 when he was the Memphis Grizzlies' general manager after he stopped working with the Lakers. He had a very good friendship with Bryant, which developed after West pulled off the 1996 trade to bring him to the Lakers.
In the end, the Lakers traded O'Neal to the Miami Heat on July 14. Bryant re-signed with the Lakers a day later. If somehow Kobe left the Lakers to join the Clippers, that would have been huge treason for their fans.
Moreover, knowing the mess the Clippers were during those days, Kobe’s career wouldn’t have been as good as it was with the Purple and Gold.