Kobe Bryant Told Jeanie Buss to Retool Lakers in LeBron James Pursuit

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James reacts after a play against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Credit Kobe Bryant for helping Jeanie Buss find the blueprint to land LeBron James.

The Los Angeles Lakers legend advised Buss to rid the franchise of her brother Jim and longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak as part of a franchise retooling aimed at signing James this summer.

Here is what Bryant said at the time, via Sam Amick of The Athletic: 

“Cut it all out at once. I know it’s hard to do, but if you want to turn this ship around, and turn it around sooner rather than later, then you’ve got to make those hard decisions.”

“Jeanie, I know who we’re trying to get; we know who we’re trying to get, so that player is not going to come here with all of this s--t going on. It’s not going to happen,” Bryant told her. “So if you do want to have that focus, and go after that player, then I’m telling you that you’ve gotta clean house, and you’ve gotta just reshuffle the deck and start anew. You have the new practice facility (the UCLA Health Training Center) that we’re just moving into (in the summer of 2017). We’ve got new management, and off we go. But that player is not coming here unless you do that.

“As a player, it’s like, listen, it’s a cultural thing. You’ve got to have the right culture around, especially for him at this stage of his career. You don’t want to come to a team and deal with a bunch of bulls--t, right? You don’t want to come here and be part of an organization where the walls are talking and stuff is getting out left and right and you have this camp and that camp. You don’t want to do that. So I said, ‘You’ve got to start anew.’”

The Lakers replaced Jim Buss and Kupchak with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Johnson is one of the five greatest players of all time and a Lakers legend, while Pelinka was one of the sport's highest-powered agents before joining the Lakers front office.

Johnson and Pelinka plucked Luke Walton as the team's head coach, hit the jackpot with their draft picks and built one of the strongest young cores in basketball. All of that, plus the promise of future stars and the ease of continuing to build his multimedia empire, appealed to James. The four-time MVP signed a four-year contract with the Lakers this summer—a commitment he never gave the Cleveland Cavaliers after his return. 

Bryant's role in helping guide Jeanie Buss is no secret. Both have spoken about their close relationship on multiple occasions, with Bryant affectionately calling Buss "the mother of dragons," a Game of Thrones reference.

"I would really like to be in the playoffs again; that really is…our goal is to be in the playoffs," Buss said. "To attract the best player in the game is really impressive. But until we make the city proud, we’re not going to stop."

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