Phil Jackson Considered Trading Kobe Bryant For Grant Hill In 1999
It is no secret that Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant clashed multiple times during Jackson's first stint with the Lakers. Early on Kobe didn't necessarily buy into Phil Jackson's coaching philosophy and team harmony concept. This would lead Kobe to continuously test Jackson and other teammates. We know that Kobe and Shaquille O'Neal weren't too fond of one another either, but that's a different story for another day. This same attitude, and type of revolt against authority is what made Kobe the respected legend that he is today, it is also why he did not always have the best reputation as a teammate.
In the 99-00 season Kobe Bryant missed the first 15 games of the season due to a hand injury, when it was time for him to return he did not want to come off the bench and wanted to be placed back into the starting lineup which caused tension with coach Phil Jackson. While speaking with Charley Rosen of TodaysFastbreak.com, Phil Jackson reminisces on how Kobe sought advice from Jerry West on how to play alongside Shaq, due to Jerry's experience in playing alongside a fellow superstar player in Elgin Baylor. Kobe also reached out to West to ask for a trade. At that moment Phil considered taking the Detroit Pistons up on an offer, that would have sent Kobe to Detroit in exchange for Grant Hill.
" A couple of weeks later, we're still winning and Shaq is completely motivated. But Kobe was only averaging about 19 points per game. So Kobe called Jerry West and wanted to know how Jerry and Elgin Baylor both averaged 30 points. Kobe also said that he wanted to be traded. Of course, Jerry told me about the conversation. And, for a few minutes I thought about taking the Pistons up on an offer they made to trade Kobe for Grant Hill. Make that a few seconds. The thing was that Kobe already saw himself as being one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. I thought that, in time, he would indeed reach that goal. Anyway, he was not going to be traded. So we'd talk about being patient, and letting the game come to him. But Kobe would sometimes still go off on his own, disregarding the offense and trying to single handedly take over the game. When I called him on this, he'd say that for us to keep on winning, there was a lot for him to do." Phil Jackson on TodaysFastbreak.com
In hindsight I am sure that everyone would agree that the Lakers made the right decision in not going through with the Bryant-Hill trade. Following the 99-00 season Hill began having serious ankle injuries, which ended his career as a top player in the league. Kobe went on to have a 20 year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships, two NBA Finals, MVP's and was the league MVP in 2008.