After the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to trade for Chris Paul in 2011, he and Kobe Bryant had a phone call that lasted about 20-30 minutes.
"You know me. My dream isn't to win games," Bryant recalled to ESPN this week. "It's like, 'How many of these titles are we going to win [together]?' Because if we don't win, we're a failure."
"It was crazy," Paul told ESPN this week. "It was exciting. We talked about potentially being teammates and all that stuff like that. Then, in the blink of an eye, gone."
The NBA vetoed the trade and Paul was ultimately traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bryant and Paul would have to share the ball in the Lakers' backcourt.
"It worked for the Olympic team and stuff like that," Paul said. "I played in a lot of All-Star Games with Kobe. I don't know how many, but I remember one of them, we said, 'As long as we're both on the same team playing this game, we're not going to lose,' just because we both know how competitive we are."
"When we played together in every All-Star Game, we never f---- around," Bryant said. "It was like, 'Listen, the guys have their fun, but now let's do what we do.' I knew how competitive he was, and I knew it would be a perfect fit. We just kind of talked about what we're going to do, how we're going to scheme to get things done. Unfortunately, it never happened."
The trade is one of the biggest what-ifs of NBA history.
"Things would've been very, very, very different around here," Bryant said, "with two of the most competitive people the league has ever seen."