As Kobe Bryant prepares to face the L.A. Clippers for the final times in his career, he can't help but look back on a significant moment in December 2011 with a feeling of 'what if'.
The L.A. Lakers had agreed on a three-team trade with the New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets which would've seen them acquire All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
Bryant revealed he received a phone call from Paul who broke the news to him and during a 20-30 minute conversation, there was only one topic between the two.
"You know me. My dream isn't to win games," Bryant told ESPN. "It's like, 'How many of these titles are we going to win [together]?' Because if we don't win, we're a failure."
Also speaking to ESPN, Paul added: "It was crazy. It was exciting. We talked about potentially being teammates and all that stuff like that. Then, in the blink of an eye, gone."
Then-NBA commissioner David Stern was responsible for that blink of an eye moment as he vetoed the trade for "basketball reasons". That decision completely changed the landscape of basketball in Los Angeles.
At the time, Paul famously tweeted "WoW" in response to the news.
The point guard was still given the chance to play in L.A., however, as he was traded to the Clippers and during his five years with the team, he has transformed the franchise and turned them into the best team in the city and one of the league's best.
In back-to-back games at the Staples Center this week, Bryant and Paul will face off against each other for the last time. In the lead up to the encounters, both players have been very open about what could've been if they'd teamed up in the purple and gold uniform.
"It worked for the Olympic team and stuff like that," Paul said. "I played in a lot of All-Star Games with Kobe. I don't know how many, but I remember one of them, we said, 'As long as we're both on the same team playing this game, we're not going to lose,' just because we both know how competitive we are."
Bryant was inclined to agree, saying: "When we played together in every All-Star Game, we never [expletive] around," Bryant said. "It was like, 'Listen, the guys have their fun, but now let's do what we do.' I knew how competitive he was, and I knew it would be a perfect fit. We just kind of talked about what we're going to do, how we're going to scheme to get things done. Unfortunately, it never happened."
The two superstars have suited up together in six All-Star games and also won Olympic gold medals with Team USA in 2008 and 2012.
The Lakers, and the rest of the NBA, certainly look back on that moment with a sense of curiosity about how things would've played out had that mouthwatering backcourt been created. The Black Mamba, however, knows exactly what it would've meant.
"Things would've been very, very, very different around here," Bryant said, "with two of the most competitive people the league has ever seen."