Most fans don’t, judging from the surprise that spread across Twitter on Monday night when a Yahoo! story about the death of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss mentioned the discussions he had with Bryant about the deal in 2007.
As reported at the time, the Pistons had worked out a trade with the Lakers that would have brought Bryant to the Motor City in exchange for Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Amir Johnson and a first-round draft pick.
The deal would have given the Pistons a roster that included Bryant, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess. Rodney Stuckey was a rookie, and Jason Maxiell was in his second season with the team. The trade would have also meant more time for Aaron Afflalo and fan favorite Walter Herrmann.
After Bryant vetoed the trade, the Pistons went 59-23 under Flip Saunders and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to Boston in six games. Saunders was fired after the season and replaced by Michael Curry, and Billups was traded to the Nuggets for Allen Iverson.
The Pistons were swept by Cleveland in the 2009 postseason – their last playoff appearance. Iverson’s cap space was filled by Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Hamilton was eventually released and now plays for Chicago, and Prince was traded to Memphis last month. Johnson was let go in a salary-cap move and is now with Toronto.
Things worked out a lot better for Bryant in Los Angeles. The Lakers went to the finals in 2008 – losing to Boston – and then won the next two NBA titles.