Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic noted Bryant’s election to the basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday by speaking with former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo on the latter’s connection to Bryant.
One of the anecdotes offered was Colangelo’s disclosure that the Suns’ signing of Steve Nash precluded them from offering Bryant a free-agent deal.
“Nash later became a two-time NBA MVP in Phoenix after the Suns signed him to a six-year, $65-million deal as a free agent in 2004,” Rankin wrote. “The move ironically eliminated the Suns from the Bryant derby as they were reportedly looking to offer him a six-year deal worth more than $100 million.”
In the summer of 2004, Bryant was coming off the Lakers’ bitter defeat in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons and also was feuding with then-teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
Bryant eventually re-signed with the Lakers on a seven-year deal worth $136.4 million, with O’Neal being dealt to the Miami Heat.
“We thought we were a position to get him in the draft and when the Lakers made that deal at the last minute, they jumped us,” Colangelo said.
Colangelo would eventually get Bryant to twice compete for Team USA, with the legend leading the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams to gold medals.
Bryant will be inducted posthumously in ceremonies scheduled for August 29, a date that may be moved back depending on the status of the continuing coronavirus pandemic.