After all the anger and angst and fury of the immediate post-Shaq era had inspired Kobe Bryant to make a trade demand, Jerry Buss finally called his superstar guard to the owner's home in the Los Angeles hills on an autumn evening in 2007.
The Los Angeles Lakers had found a trade for Bryant, but Buss warned him that it wasn't to one of his selected destinations.
"Detroit," Buss said.
The Lakers had agreed to a deal to send Bryant to the Pistons and needed Bryant's approval to waive his no-trade clause. The package included a combination of Detroit's core players and draft picks, sources say. Buss and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak needed an answer soon, because they refused to let the issue linger into training camp.
Looking back, Bryant isn't sure it would've mattered whether it was Detroit or Chicago, Dallas or New York. In that moment, in Buss' house in the hills, it washed over Bryant how much staying a Laker for life meant to him, how no matter how dire the state of the franchise seemed, that Buss had a history of restoring the Lakers to championship contention.
"It hit me that I didn't really want to walk out on Dr. Buss," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports on Monday.