Rewind the tape to December 8th, 2011, a date that will forever haunt Los Angeles Lakers fans. It marks the day that Chris Paul was a Laker, until David Stern decided he wasn’t.
The Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets agreed to a three team deal centered around Hornets guard Chris Paul and Lakers big man Pau Gasol. The full details of the trade had the Lakers acquiring Paul, the Hornets acquiring Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a couple of draft picks and Pau Gasol to the Rockets.
The package of players heading to the Hornets was strange considering they were starting a rebuild. A group of veterans entering a rebuilding team is not the ideal return on an all time great point guard.
Commissioner and acting owner of the Hornets, David Stern must have agreed as he quickly vetoed the trade. This only caused more chaos as every player knew they were traded, making it uncomfortable for them to return to their teams. Most known example was Lamar Odom who forced his way out of LA and into Dallas.
Chris Paul eventually ended up in Los Angeles, but with the Clippers and the Lakers never fully recovered until 2019.
But what if Stern decided not to veto the trade? Would CP3 and Kobe Bryant have become the greatest backcourt of all time? Do the Lakers still pull the trigger on Dwight Howard and form a “Big 3” out west? Does Kobe get that elusive 6th ring to tie Michael Jordan? Will Lebron James still end up in a Lakers uniform? Let’s rewrite history.
Part 1: The Trade Goes Through
Chris Paul gets on that jet and heads to Los Angeles to be greeted by Kobe Bryant and the Buss family, not the Clippers. Chris Paul adapts nicely to the team and the Lakers make the playoffs. But in the stacked Western Conference the new look Lakers fall short of the finals.
Heading into the Summer of ’12, the Lakers target the disgruntled star in Orlando. The Lakers flip their promising big man Andrew Bynum and some draft picks for All-Star Center Dwight Howard. With the addition of Howard, the Lakers form a legit big 3 ready to take on the league.
Part 2: Kobe gets his 6th, CP3 Gets his 1st
With Paul and Bryant in the backcourt and World Peace, Gasol and Howard in the front court, the Lakers have the most complete starting 5 in the league. After working on chemistry issues early on in the season, the Lakers hit their stride after the All-Star Game, rising to the top of the conference.
The playoffs were grueling, having to go through tough battles with the Spurs and Thunder, but the Lakers prevail setting up the highest rating NBA Finals of all time.
The NBA world gets the elusive finals matchup that it deserves as Kobe and LeBron meet with the Larry O’Brien Trophy and bragging rights on the line. Bryant and James got toe to toe, shot for shot in an instant classic 7 games series. The size and strength of the Lakers front court proves to be the difference maker and the Lakers walk away as NBA champions. But the Lakers good fortune quickly turns sour.
Part 3: The Decline
Dwight Howard, unhappy with the amount of touches on the block, still decides to leave the Lakers in free agency. Despite winning the championship, he never seen eye to eye with Paul and Bryant so he joins James Harden and the Rockets. This leaves the defending champion Lakers in a tough spot as they don’t have the funds available to make any drastic moves.
They decide to run it back but without Howard. The Lakers start out strong their age and lack of depth quickly shows. By the time the playoffs start, the team is running on fumes. Paul and Bryant had to carry the load all season and just don’t have the legs to compete with the young Thunder team with Durant and Westbrook.
Lebron James’ reign over the NBA begins just a year later than it did and becomes the face of the league as Bryant begins to fade.
Part 4: Passing of the Torch
While Bryant fades, he passing the keys to the franchise to Chris Paul. Bryant still becomes the 3rd all time leading scorer but retires in 2016 to spend more time with his family.
Paul keeps the Lakers from completely falling into obscurity, but they are missing a piece or two before the Lakers are back into title contention.
Part 5: Banana Boat to Los Angeles
Remember the banana boat rumors? Rumors quickly turn to reality as best friends CP3, James, Wade and Melo join forces in Los Angeles. James and CP3 carry the load while Melo and Wade begin their declines. James and CP3 lead the Lakers to a couple of championships, halting the Warriors dynasty before it ever gets started.
Present day Paul and James remain on the Lakers and are contenders. Both players are in their mid 30’s with just an average supporting cast. The young teams are coming for them, and soon there won’t be any resistance left in Los Angeles. Dark days are ahead as the franchise will be heading into their first rebuild since Shaq was traded.
The Lakers run of success continues without the vetoed trade. Never falling into ineptitude for six years, the Lakers win one last title with the Kobe. Some years later they reemerge as champions with the banana boat crew. James and Paul stay relevant until the year 2021 but Father Time catches up to them. This forces the Lakers into years of rebuilding through the draft.