By JOHN DORN
They're two players that have been compared against each other for more than a decade. For a time in the late 2000s, they were the two best players in the NBA.
And as it turns out, they were almost traded for each other.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst revealed on Wednesday a "little secret that's danced around the Cavs' organization for a while." In 2007, during Kobe Bryant's period of aggravation toward the Lakers front office, the team was contemplating moving him at his request. Though he had a no-trade clause, it was understood that he'd accept a deal to the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns or San Antonio Spurs -- and no other team.
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But Mitch Kupchak tried to get creative.
According to Windhorst, the Lakers called Cleveland with a proposal for a would-be historic swap: 28-year-old Kobe for 22-year-old LeBron.
"At that time, the Lakers had to do something. I was just losing faith in what they were trying to do. It was like I was a meal ticket," Bryant said (via ESPN's Baxter Holmes). "You come out and score 40, 50 points, fill the seats, we're going to keep the payroll at a minimum, generate revenue. It's like, look, listen, I am not with that, dude. I have to win without Shaq. I've got to do it. We've got to do something."
The Cavaliers quickly shut down the offer -- not that it mattered, since Bryant would never have approved a trade to Cleveland anyway. But Cavs execs remember the call as the only occasion of a team ever calling and asking for James in a potential trade.
"I never would've approved it. Never. The trade to go to Cleveland? Never," Bryant said to Holmes. "That wasn't one of the teams that was on my list."
James doesn't doubt that the call took place. "If you give up one big fish, you got to give a big fish too," he said to ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
The two players will face off on Wednesday for the second-to-last time -- with one matchup left next month.