DALLAS — Kobe Bryant was almost traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2007. Yes, you read that correctly.
The Los Angeles Lakers dominated the early 2000s with a three-peat led by Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. But after O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, the Lakers experienced a less successful stretch – missing the playoffs in 2004-05, followed by back-to-back first round exits. In 2007, Bryant requested a trade from the Lakers.
On the other hand, the Mavs were on the up and up. Dallas had just come off an NBA Finals appearance in 2006, losing to O'Neal and the Heat in six games.
In an interview with Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks this week, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said they nearly traded for the Black Mamba. So much so, the Shark Tank star went as far as saying he thought the deal was done.
"I was going back and forth with Dr. [Jerry] Buss, and he said 'look, we might be parting ways with Kobe.'," Cuban said. "And I remember it vividly because there was a PA named Elvis who was working for us and was Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, Lakers. I used to give him a hard time, and he'd give me a hard time. We'd talk and it would just be 'Kobe, Kobe, Kobe' all the time. ... It started to happen and I started to tell him about it, and that was the kiss of death cause the minute I told Elvis, it all fell apart."
Cuban went on to tell Rooks that the deal fell through because former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak convinced Bryant to stay with Los Angeles.
"It was just like DeAndre (Jordan). Not the same same, but when a guy that's key to your team wants to leave, you're going to do everything you can to keep him," Cuban added.
Immediately, you can't help but wonder about all the "what ifs." The domino effect of this trade would have been monumental to NBA history.
In reality, Bryant stayed with the Lakers and the pressure he put on the organization led to the team trading for All-Star big man Pau Gasol with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Bryant and Gasol resurged the Lakers franchise, netting Bryant's two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Imagine if Bryant left the Lakers to join Dallas in 2007. There would have been no back-to-back titles in Los Angeles. Sorry Lakers fans, there just wouldn't have been.
The "what if" scenarios inside the Mavericks organization are endless.
The Nowitzki-Bryant duo would have likely been a smashing success. It is well-known Bryant and Nowitzki had unwavering respect for each other. They always spoke highly of each other, and even if you're still a skeptic, Bryant's actions showed it. Dirk once hit what would be a game-winning fadeaway right in front of the Lakers bench (including Bryant, who wasn't dressed to play in the game), which led to a pat on the back from Bryant.
Cuban told Rooks the proposed trade included forward Josh Howard, guard Jason Terry, another player (Cuban says "I forget who else") and "a couple of first-round picks."
There would have been some roster building to be done around the Nowitzki-Bryant power duo, sure, but that hypothetical Mavericks team is easily a championship contender. The Mavericks ultimately won the championship in 2011, but even the makeup of that team would have likely looked very different.
Oh, the possibilities.
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