Pinch me if you’ve heard this one before: wealthy NBA owner nearly trades for the game’s biggest superstar in-between sets of an annoying TV series. I’m assuming that’s a first for you, right? It’s a weird age we live in when stories like this one are dominating the blogosphere. While taking a break from spanking Jason Kidd, Mark Cuban said recently he thought he acquired Kobe Bryant in 2007 while he was practicing for Dancing With The Stars. Sounds reasonable. This is a pretty typical Mark Cuban thing to do. He used to host press conferences in-between huffs and puffs on his stairmaster inside the Mavs locker room. Plus, it’s feasible. Bryant wanted out in Los Angeles. Spending two years with anchors like Kwame Brown and Smush Parker took him over the edge. This was pre-Pau Gasol and pre-dynasty talk in Hollywood. Things were so bad, they were coming off two straight first-round exits, including one partially at the hands of Tim Thomas (which is just about the worst way to go).
Bryant’s 2007 flirtation with the Chicago Bulls is well-documented. First, the Lakers wouldn’t accept Chicago’s trade. The Bulls weren’t giving up enough (for an idea of how quickly the NBA can change, there were reports the Bulls were actually refusing to part ways for a time with Kirk Hinrich – let’s see… Kobe… or keeping Kirk? Hmmm, not sure about that one – which is like refusing to take Charlize Theron out on a date because she has ugly feet. Then, Bryant decided against going to Chicago because the Lakers were taking back Luol Deng, and he didn’t think he could win if the Bulls completed gutted their roster. Finding a deal for Bryant would’ve been difficult without getting one side (Bryant, the Lakers, another team) to back off, but above all else, Bryant did want out. So the Mavs/Bryant near partnership probably has roots.
The Dallas Morning News writes:
“When I was doing Dancing with the Stars, I was taking breaks because I was talking to Kobe’s agent because Kobe wanted to get traded,” Cuban explained on the Ben and Skin Show on 103.3 [KESN-FM]. “Literally, between Dancing with the Stars practices I had thought we traded for Kobe Bryant. I even talked to their owner and thought we were going to have done deal, and [Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak changed [Kobe's] mind and brought him back.”
Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t involved. But you can paint a picture of who could’ve been: some package involving Jason Terry (30 years old at the time but two years before he’d win the Sixth Man award), Devin Harris (considered one of the best defensive guards in the league AT THE TIME), Josh Howard (an All-Star in 2007) and maybe someone like Jerry Stackhouse (Kobe could’ve paid him to go to L.A. and knock the s$%& out of Smush). Dallas would’ve gutted a team that made the Finals in 2006, and were coming off the worst 67-win season ever (you get punk’d in the first round by the Warriors, and your best player has to suffer through heart jokes all summer… yeah, that’s bad). But it would’ve given them enough star power to rival the Cowboys. As I’ve done before (I once said Grant Hill‘s injuries kept us all from becoming obsessed with Fila retros), I love speculating and playing the What If? game. So here it goes…
A duo of Bryant and Dirk would’ve been deadly, and they would’ve gone entire seasons trying to one-up each other in the “ugly faces” department (And imagine the trips to Germany they’d be embarking on right now? Both would come back half-man, half-machine.). Two of the greatest big moment performers – even though Bryant gets hate from stat nerds and Nowitzki gets hate from everyone who thinks you can’t be a tough white Euro – they would’ve eventually put together a championship contender. Cuban wouldn’t turn down Kobe. You need another shooter, Bean? Okay, let me go give Jason Richardson $40 million. Bryant would’ve felt like he was in heaven. But in 2012, there’s no way he’d be starting in a lineup with 33 All-Star appearances, four Defensive Player of the Year awards and three MVP awards. Bryant and Dirk would still be in Dallas, and Cuban would’ve never had the chance to surprise us all by getting stiff (and surprisingly smart) with his money.