In the summer of 1996, the Los Angeles Lakers put together arguably the greatest off-season in NBA history. The team signed Shaquille O’Neal and also traded away starting center Vlade Divac in exchange for rookie Kobe Bryant.
That trade, however, almost never happened as Vlade Divac was not interested in leaving the Lakers for the Charlotte Hornets.
In an interview with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Divac reveals that he told the Lakers he was going to retire after hearing about the trade, which would have nixed the deal:
Divac was in Europe and was stunned when his agent told him about the trade. Days later, Divac said he informed the Lakers he planned to retire, which would have prevented the team from trading him for Bryant.
Divac would go into more details about his feelings when he was told about the trade:
“It felt like someone from behind hit me with a hammer,” Divac told Yahoo Sports. “It was the first time in my career that something happened in a way I didn’t plan. I was devastated […] I told my agent that I am not going to Charlotte. I loved L.A. I loved the Lakers. For every kid that played basketball, it was basketball heaven being with Magic and the other guys.”
Ultimately, Divac would meet with then-Lakers GM Jerry West and after an ’emotional’ discussion, agreed to the trade. Divac now admits that had he refused to go through with this trade, he would probably be the most hated man in Los Angeles.
Thankfully for the Lakers and their fans, Divac would go through with and the franchise would benefit by acquiring one of the greatest players of all-time and winning five more NBA championships.