Kobe Bryant had a couple of chances to force his way out of Los Angeles—first in 2004 as a free agent, then in 2007 when he requested a trade—and says he even scoped out some houses in Chicago with his wife.
Bryant, of course, ended up staying with the Lakers for the remainder of his Hall of Fame career, but had no qualms about possibly playing for the Bulls and in Michael Jordan’s considerable shadow.
The Black Mamba made his 15th and final pit stop in Chicago as a player last night.
Thank You Kobe! pic.twitter.com/xZg2hWML3d
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 22, 2016
Per the LA Daily News:
On Dec. 17, 1996, Bryant squared off against Michael Jordan for the first time in his life. But despite spending a childhood studying Jordan “exclusively”, Bryant could not prepare for the first in-person interaction. Then, Jordan drove past Bryant baseline for a dunk. […] “That was the coolest thing. I have seen that spin move so many times,” Bryant said before the Lakers played the Bulls on Sunday in what marked his final game at United Center. “I knew he was going to do it. But the timing on TV and in person are two completely different things. He spun right before I thought he was going to spin. I thought that was pretty cool.”
Jordan led the Bulls to victory that night with 30 points on a 10-of-32 clip, while an 18-year-old Bryant had five points on 2-of-5 shooting. But Bryant turned out quite all right after winning five NBA championships, even if it trailed Jordan’s six rings. […] “Six doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards. But I’m okay with that because as a player, you want to try to do everything you can with what you have and leave no stone unturned,” Bryant said. “If you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror and honestly understand that you’ve done that, I’m more than happy.”
Bryant also initially thought a reporter misunderstood his connection with Jordan partly dissuaded him from joining the Bulls both as a free agent in 2004 and when he requested a trade in 2007. […] “Do I seem like the type to cower to something like that?” Bryant said. “Come on. No.” […] “It wasn’t a pressure situation to live up to what he’s done,” Bryant said. “It was more like I can carry on his legacy and do it justice and represent Chicago the way that it should be represented in his honor. It’s a tremendous amount of influence.”