Kobe Bryant considered joining Michael Jordan with the Washington Wizards before his 2004 free agency.
Abe Pollin, however, parted ways with Jordan in 2003 a year before Bryant was scheduled to make his free agent decision.
“That’s true,” Bryant confirmed recently. “A long time ago? Yeah.”
Bryant considered signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, but eventually chose to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant was in the middle of a feud with Shaquille O'Neal as the two were struggling to co-exist. The Lakers traded O'Neal in that 2004 offseason to the Miami Heat.
“The challenge had been thrown down upon me, of not being able to win without Shaq. A public challenge never really bothered me too much, but he made a couple of comments as well. I think he called me Penny Hardaway Part 2 or something like that. So that’s what [ticked] me off,” Bryant said. “Then it was like, ‘Listen, you know the step back that I took to help us win championships. Let’s not get [expletive] confused. I can dominate on my own. I decided to stay here and win championships and sacrifice MVPs and scoring titles and all that stuff.’ So once that was said, it was like a line in the sand now.”
According to two people with knowledge of the situation, after Jordan decided to sell his minority ownership stake to resume his playing career with the Wizards, Bryant informed him several times he wanted to play for the Wizards. Jordan was going to return to the front office after his retirement.
“I’ve always been very big on having mentors, on having muses and I’ve been really, really big on that,” Bryant said. “Being around guys who have done it before and done it at a high level and always tried to pick their brains and always tried to absorb knowledge. Obviously, being in that situation [with the Wizards], it would’ve helped having to be around him every day and so on.”
The Wizards never had the assets to discuss a trade for Bryant, so the only chance the organization would have had to make a run at him was when he became an unrestricted free agent in 2004.
“We would’ve put together a great team and we would’ve won championships,” Bryant said. “Listen, man. There are not a lot of players in this league that say, ‘Come hell or high water, we’re going to get this [expletive] done.’ People can look around and joke around about winning, saying they want to win. For me, it’s a matter of life or death. It was that important to me. And if it’s that important to me, I’m going to get there.”