Kobe Bryant, Before Earning $136 Million, Wanted to Team Up with Michael Jordan on the Wizards

Samir Mehdi
|Published October 14, 2022

Kobe Bryant once confirmed that he wanted to play with Michael Jordan following his feud with Shaquille O’Neal. 

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal quickly became one of the most volatile duos North American sports had ever witnessed. They were, at the same time, one of the most successful duos as well, going to 4 NBA Finals and winning 3 of them. 

However, egos got in the way as both perceived themselves to be the alpha on the team. Bryant took a back-seat to Shaq on most days but grew tired of it as well, especially when he got referred to as ‘Penny Hardaway 2.0’ by ‘The Big Aristotle’ himself. 

In the midst of their feud, Kobe was contemplating a change of scenery. At that same time, his mentor, Michael Jordan, had returned to the NBA as a part of the Washington Wizards. Bryant saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Also read: “Playing With Kobe Bryant? I Wouldn’t Change That for Money or Rings”: Matt Barnes Chose The Mamba Over Teaming up With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh

Kobe Bryant wanted to play for the Washington Wizards because of Michael Jordan 

Michael Jordan played a crucial role in Kobe’s basketball journey. During the ‘Last Dance’ docuseries, he confirmed that what people saw him do was what they got from MJ during his playing days, giving him credit for a lot of his success. 

During his 19th season in the NBA, Kobe Bryant told ‘The Washington Post’ that he actually had plans of becoming a Wizard when he was a free agent in the summer of 2004. Due to the tumultuous nature of his relationship with Shaq, one of them had to go. 

“That’s true. A long time ago? Yeah. We would’ve put a great team together and won championships.” 

Bryant didn’t choose DC as a go-to team out of thin air. He wanted to be in close proximity to Jordan and that is incredibly apparent. It’s not known if Jordan would’ve stayed another year in the league just for the sake of playing alongside Kobe or if he would resume his President of Basketball Ops role 

Kobe Bryant ended up staying with the Lakers 

Jerry Buss cleaned house in the summer of 2004 when he got rid of both Phil Jackson and the older Shaquille O’Neal. The latter got traded to the Miami Heat, resulting in them signing free agent, Kobe Bryant, to a 7 year deal worth $136 million. 

While playing with the Wizards was enticing, seeing MJ retire for good certainly pushed him away from that idea. He did try quite hard that summer to play for the Clippers with the Clips even believing that they had gotten him after a meeting. 

However, as history would dictate, that never came to fruition and the purple and gold got 2 more titles out of the ‘Black Mamba’. 

Also read: “Phil Jackson Started That Feud”: Robert Horry Accused Head Coach of Starting Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal Beef

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About the author

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi is an NBA Editor at The Sportsrush. Ever since he was 13 years old, he’s been obsessed with the game of basketball. From watching Kobe Bryant’s highlights on YouTube to now, analyzing and breaking down every single game on League Pass, Samir’s passion for the game is unwavering. He's a complete basketball junkie who not only breaks down current games but also keenly watches ones from the 60s’ and 70s’ while also reading comprehensive books on the history of the league. Samir’s life revolves around basketball and he hopes that shows in his work. Aside from work, he loves to spend time in the gym and with his friends at social gatherings.

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