Kobe Bryant wanted to sign with the Washington Wizards around a decade ago, joining his mentor Michael Jordan.
Jordan had a minority stake in the team when Abe Pollin owned the team, before selling his stake so that he could come out of retirement and play for the Wizards as a player.
Jordan returned for the 2001-02 season, and the 2002-03 season.
Bryant recently confirmed the rumors that he sought to join Jordan in D.C. around the time.
“That’s true,” Bryant confirmed to the Washington Post. “A long time ago? Yeah.”
Kobe was feuding with Shaq at the time, and wanted to be close to his mentor Jordan and also be known as a player who brought a franchise known as a bottom-dweller to the top, to a championship.
Two people with knowledge of the situation told the Post that Bryant informed Jordan several times that he wanted to play for the Wizards, “under the assumption that Jordan would return to the front office once his playing days were over.”
“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.”
“What I look at, in terms of the front office, is their commitment to excellence, their commitment to not winning division banners but winning NBA championships,” Bryant said of Jordan. “That’s where I always start and then I can work backwards. He obviously was a championship-or-bust man.”
But it seems the reason it didn’t work out is because the only way Washington could have snagged Bryant was through free agency, since it would have been improbably to trade for him.
The problem–when Bryant became an unrestricted free agency in 2004, Jordan was not an executive anymore–Pollin had decided in May 2003 not to let him continue running the team.
Bryant signed a seven-year, $136 million contract with Los Angeles soon after the team traded Shaq to Miami.