Jerry West Recalls Talking Kobe Out of Joining Memphis Grizzlies

Picturing Kobe Bryant in anything but a Lakers jersey feels weird.

But back in 2004 he almost played for the Memphis Grizzlies. Wild.

Memphis Grizzlies legend Kobe Bryant doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, does it?

Kobe became an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2004 for the first time ever and at that time, Jerry West was the GM for the Grizzlies.

Of course, West was a Lakers hero in his own right but was GM of Memphis from 2002-07 and Kobe was ready to make the switch.

But West convinced him otherwise.

“So I met [Kobe and his agent Rob Pelinka] in Orange County in a hotel room,” West said on the Podcast P with Paul George. “He said he wanted to come to Memphis to play basketball. I look at him and said, ‘Are you kidding me?'” He said no. I said, ‘Kobe, no, no. You belong somewhere out here. Okay?'”

“And even though he would have never played there, I just wanted to reassure him that — don’t feel like you have any obligation with me or the Grizzlies to play here. I guess in some sense, that might have been tampering. I didn’t look at it as tampering because he was at our house all the time. He ate at my house a lot. I felt more like a father figure with him.”

West went on to detail the enormous amount of respect he had for an amazing basketball player and amazing human being.

“I had a wonderful relationship with him,” West said. Forget as a basketball player. I loved what he stood for, his commitment to excellence. He wasn’t afraid of failing. Once you get afraid of failing, you’re going to fail. He was not afraid.”

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Kobe’s later partner in crime, Pau Gasol was drafted to the Grizzlies in 2001 so if Kobe did decide to make the switch, the pair may have crossed paths earlier.

Gasol and Kobe won two championships together in the purple and gold and now their jerseys hang in the rafters side-by-side at Arena.

Could they have won more championships together at the Grizzlies? Guess we’ll never know.

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