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It was five years ago that the landscape of the NBA was almost changed in a huge way. It was this week back in December of 2011 that we thought Chris Paul was traded to the Lakers and he and Kobe Bryant were going to combine to be the best backcourt in the league. There were many players involved in the deal but the obvious focal point of it all was Paul but the trade never was completed after NBA commissioner David Stern allegedly vetoed it. The conspiracy theories ran wild at the time, with most accusing Stern of caving into pressure from other owners to not let the trade happen because of what it would do for the Lakers and how it would make the Hornets irrelevant. Stern remained very quiet in the aftermath of the trade not happening but he spoke about it this week and claimed the narrative we were all led to believe was completely false.


The initial deal was supposed to be Chris Paul to the Lakers to team up with Kobe Bryant, while Pau Gasol went to the Rockets, and the then New Orleans Hornets would have gotten Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick. Obviously it never happened and Paul was eventually traded to the Clippers but there was quite a bit of shady activity surrounding the trade to the Lakers not going through.

Most folks accused Stern and other team owners of being upset that even with a newly signed CBA in place, one that was supposed to prevent any superteams after the big three in Miami, that the Lakers were able to obtain such a great player to go alongside an all time great in Kobe. At the time, the league itself was also the owner of the Hornets as the previous owner had given the team back to the league, so Stern also had to keep the Hornets best interest in his mind.

During a Q&A session in New York City with students from Marist and Columbia Universities, A student asked Stern about his role in the trade and the assumption that he personally shut it down. For the first time, Stern spoke publicly about it and made it clear that’s not what happened.

Q: You talked a little bit about NBA ownership of the New Orleans franchise. I was wondering, the biggest decision you had was the cancellation of the Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers—

Stern: As we speak I’m in an argument with somebody who writes for ESPN… so I’m going to correct your language: What cancellation? You mean the GM was not authorized to make that trade and, acting on behalf of owners, I decided not to make it. I was an owner rep, so it wasn’t… there was nothing to void. It never got made.

When you’re the commissioner and you have two teams that are ticked off at you, as in the Lakers and Houston and the GMs, without wanting to be attributed spend their time trashing you, the wrong impression can be granted.

One of the few times I decided to just go radio silent and let it play out, and I got killed. So the answer is: there was never a trade. It was never approved by me as owner rep.

To be real, it sounds like Stern is just putting a nice spin on things with the words he is using. At the end of the day, he could have allowed the trade to happen and whether he actually vetoed it or not becomes irrelevant. Seeing that Paul was eventually traded to the Clippers and the Hornets didn’t get any major players in return, it definitely will always feel like the league just didn’t want him with the Lakers.

The only good thing that worked out for the Hornets after all of the drama was the fact that they wound up with a first round pick in the deal with the Clippers, which turned out to be Anthony Davis. Remind yourself that the Hornets team Paul played on is the team that became the Pelicans, not the current Hornets franchise.

H/t Dime Mag