Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry West shared a story on Tuesday about Kobe Bryant that may leave many people surprised.

West was part of a panel that spoke on TNT Tuesday night for an hour-long special in tribute to Kobe Bryant. West acquired Kobe in a draft-day trade and believed from the start that Bryant was going to become the best player in the NBA. West had an extremely close relationship with Bryant and said he felt like a father to Kobe for a few years.

During the TNT program, West even shared that he actually stopped Kobe from signing with the rival Clippers.

“I’ve never really mentioned this to anyone. He was going to come and sign with the Clippers, who I’m now involved with as a consultant. I told him ‘Kobe, under no circumstances can you do this.’ And he was mad at everyone with the Lakers — the owner, everyone else. I said, ‘Kobe, you can’t go play with the Clippers. You can’t go play for that owner. Period.’

“We had two conversations about it, and he supposedly made a commitment to the Clippers, and after the last one, we talked last time.”

This story occurred during the summer of 2004. West was president of the Memphis Grizzlies at the time, and Bryant’s Lakers had just lost to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

Phil Jackson did not return as the team’s coach after that Finals loss, and Shaq demanded a trade and was sent to the Miami Heat.

Bryant, who signed a 7-year deal with the Lakers, acknowledged at the time that he chose the Lakers over the Clippers.

“I could see myself playing for the Clippers. Ultimately, it was in my heart to play for the Lakers,” he said at the time.

An Associated Press article from 2004 also stated that West advised Bryant.

“He tried to help me as best as he could,” Bryant said of West. “He’s always been a great mentor to me. Jerry said it’s his feeling I should be a Laker for life.”

Bryant ended up spending his entire career with the Lakers, which is the only way it should have been. West played a role in that, and fans can thank him for helping to ensure that happened. And how prescient was West for saying Kobe shouldn’t play for Donald Sterling, given what later came out?

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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