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Kobe Bryant trade to the Pistons was closer than we ever realized

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Bryant had reportedly already agreed to go to Detroit before having a change of heart. "The deal was done. We were just waiting to set up the conference call with the league office."

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The mythic almost trade of Kobe Bryant to the Detroit Pistons in 2007 is by this point well known. Rumors circulated for years, and small details came out in dribs and drabs. In 2013, it was all but confirmed, and was confirmed by Bryant himself last year.

It was long believed that while the parameters of the trade were agreed to in principle by the brass from both the Lakers and Pistons, Ken Berger has additional details that might be a gut punch to any Detroit fan (who can stomach the thought of Bryant in a Pistons' jersey, that is).

Bryant agreed to the Pistons trade, too, before having a change of heart at the eleventh hour.

According to one of the people involved in the talks, Bryant's first choice was Chicago, where he'd try to eclipse Michael Jordan's mark of six championships in his idol's very shadow. But Detroit also was on the list, the person said, on the following conditions: Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace couldn't be included in the deal.

"Kobe had signed off on the deal," the person said. "He'd approved two teams: Chicago and Detroit."

At one point, Bryant had envisioned teaming up with Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace -- though by the time the talks came to fruition, the latter had signed as a free agent with the Bulls, who became Bryant's top choice.

The details of the deal as reported by Berger were Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Jason Maxiell and two first-round picks. Back in 2013, Vincent Goodwill, then of the Detroit News, reported the deal as Stuckey, Hamilton, Amir Johnson and a future first.

Regardless, the deal would have teamed Bryant up with Wallace, Billups and McDyess and likely kept the Pistons an Eastern Conference power for at least another five years.

That appealed to Bryant, Berger reports, and the deal was all but done.

According to multiple people briefed on the discussions, Kupchak had told Dumars that A) he wasn't going to trade Bryant within the Western Conference, and B) Chicago and Detroit were the only teams with enough talent and draft picks to make such a monumental trade happen.

The Pistons weren't yet at the point of knitting Bryant's jersey and planning the press conference, but they were close. There was but one step left before the deal could be official, and it would prove to be the death knell for an NBA trade for the ages.

That death knell was a face-to-face meeting with Jerry Buss, and Buss was able to convince Bryant that he should be a Laker for life and that he would do what he could to bring another championship to Los Angeles. He made good on that with the Pau Gasol trade, while the Pistons instead made the doomed Allen Iverson trade.

We've, of course, reminisced about this trade before both here and here and even dedicated a hub to it here.

Ahh, what might have been.