Kobe Bryant Wanted To Play For Memphis Grizzlies, Says Jerry West

rsz kobe bryant shaquille oneal
rsz kobe bryant shaquille oneal

Kobe Bryant spent the entirety of his illustrious career as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. But according to a recent quote from NBA legend Jerry West, the superstar thought about taking his talents to Memphis to play for the Grizzlies at one point.

West was always a big part of Bryant’s career and life. He spent over 20 years as the Lakers’ general manager, and was the one who was responsible for drafting the young phenom.

Jerry West Says Kobe Bryant Almost Played For The Grizzlies

Back in the mid-90s, there was a wave of players skipping college completely and taking their game directly to the pros. Kobe Bryant was one of the players who decided to make that leap, but there were questions surrounding his ability to make it in the NBA.

West saw past all of that. He traded long-time Laker Vlade Divac for the rights to the 13th overall pick in 1996, and the team used it to select Bryant.

The rest is history. Kobe went on to become one of the greatest players of all-time, and racked up 5 championships in his illustrious 20-year career. He is as much a symbol for the city of Los Angeles as he is for the Lakers themselves, and he is the area’s most popular athlete of his generation.

But based on what Jerry West said recently in a podcast with Paul George, Kobe Bryant nearly left the city altogether back in 2004.

Bryant Would Have Joined Gasol Years Earlier

The Lakers were coming off of a disappointing NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons, and the relationship between Byrant and center Shaquille O’Neal had come to a breaking point. It was thought that the team had a choice to make between the two superstars, and Bryant weighed his options, according to West:

“He became a free agent…I met them in Orange County in a hotel room. And he said he wanted to come to Memphis to play basketball. I looked at him and I said, ‘are you kidding me?’…I said ‘Kobe, no. You belong somewhere out here (California)”

It was more of the thought of following and playing under Jerry West than it was going and playing for the Grizzlies. West went on in the interview to say that Bryant viewed him as something of a father figure, and was willing to follow him, even if it meant leaving Los Angeles.

The Lakers ultimately decided on trading O’Neal, dealing him to the Miami Heat. The day after the transaction went down, Kobe Bryant signed a long-term deal to remain with the Lakers, and the rest is history.

What would the Grizzlies have looked like with Bryant on the roster? The 2004-05 depth chart featured guys like Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, and Jason Williams. The presence of Kobe likely would have made them into a conteder.

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