Over the course of his 18 years in the NBA, Chris Paul has been traded a number of times, with the latest deal sending him from Phoenix to Washington. And while Paul has been moved multiple times, the most notable trade is one that didn't happen.
On Dec. 8, 2011, Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the New Orleans Hornets were "near a deal" to send Chris Paul to the Lakers as part of a three-team trade that also included the Rockets. Less than four hours after his first report, Wojnarowski reported that the deal was off.
One of the biggest "what ifs" in sports history, the nixed trade would have created an All-NBA backcourt pairing of Paul and Kobe Bryant. And while Paul found plenty of success after ultimately landing with the Clippers, the Lakers deal that could have been is still one of the biggest stories in NBA lore.
What exactly happened on Dec. 8, 2011? The Sporting News looks back at why the deal never came to be.
Chris Paul-Lakers trade, explained: Why David Stern blocked move
One of the most important factors leading to the trade's failure dates back nearly a year prior to the deal itself. On Dec. 20, 2010, the NBA purchased the Hornets from owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest.
With the franchise under the NBA's control, league spokesperson Mike Bass told the New York Times that "franchise-altering decisions will ultimately be reviewed by the league."
The trade, which would come 353 days later, was deemed a decision big enough for league review. It's important to note that due to the 2011 lockout, which ended in late November, the reported deal came ahead of training camp.
Chris Paul-Lakers trade timeline
Here is a timeline of Adrian Wojnarowski's reports from Dec. 8, 2011, that shows how the trade came together and quickly fell apart.
5:57 p.m. ET — "The Hornets are near a deal to send Chris Paul to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom."
6:21 p.m. ET — The details of a three-team trade are as follows: Paul to the Lakers, Odom, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to New Orleans, and Pau Gasol to the Rockets.
Hornets working to finalize details on 3-team deal to send Chris Paul to Lakers, Gasol to Rockets and Odom, KMart, Scola to NO, sources say.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 8, 2011
7:06 p.m. ET — "A deal has been reached in principle" to make Paul a Laker.
8:52 p.m. ET — "NBA owners have pushed commissioner David Stern to kill the deal."
9:12 p.m. ET — With one tweet, Wojnarowski shares that the deal "had to be stopped," citing the lockout that had just ended two weeks prior.
The NBA has caved to pressure from owners that the appearance of this deal, on heels of lockout, had to be stopped, sources tell Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 9, 2011
10:22 p.m. ET — According to one of Wojnarowski's sources, Stern was not going to allow Paul to have control over the team that acquired him via trade.
Why did David Stern veto the Chris Paul trade?
During a 2017 appearance on the "Nunyo & Company" podcast, Stern explained his decision to veto the trade and what would happen in the aftermath.
In the course of the weekend, we thought we could redo the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with [Kyle] Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick. Not we, but my basketball folks.
But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn't even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.
Chris Paul on frustration with the vetoed trade
In June 2023, Paul spoke on the trade during an appearance on The Pivot Podcast, essentially confirming Wojnarowski's report about Stern not allowing Paul to have control over who acquired him:
I actually called David Stern one night and he was at dinner … This was right after the CBA had just finished, so what happened when the trade went through is that a few of the owners were mad, they said 'no, this trade can't go through because we just had this whole CBA talking about player movement.' The biggest frustration was that it was about money. Had my trade went through to the Lakers, I would've kept my Bird Rights, which meant that if the trade happened, then I would've gotten a chance when my contract was up to sign a longer deal.
Chris Paul-Clippers trade details
After the trade was nixed, Chris Paul's father, Charles, had this to say about what transpired:
He's going to leave after the season anyway and it's not right that these owners are trying to dictate where Chris lands.
The elder Paul also added that his son just "wants to go somewhere he can win," and was not expected to report to training camp. As it turns out, Paul would still end up in Los Angeles, only with the city's other team.
On Dec. 14 — just six days after the initial Lakers trade fell through — the Hornets and Clippers finalized a deal to send Paul to LA.
- Chris Paul
- 2015 second-round pick (used to select Arturas Gudaitis)
- Al-Farouq Aminu
- Eric Gordon
- Chris Kaman
- 2012 first-round pick (used to select Austin Rivers)
Chris Paul Clippers stats, highlights
Chris Paul appeared in 409 regular season games over six seasons (2011-17) with the Clippers. Prior to acquiring Paul, the franchise had made seven playoff appearances in franchise history.
With Paul, LA made six playoff appearances and advanced to the second round three times.
- 409 games
- 18.8 points per game
- 9.8 assists per game
- 4.2 rebounds per game
- 2.2 steals per game
- 2.3 turnovers per game
- 47.5 percent field goal shooting
- 37.8 percent 3-point shooting
- 88.1 percent free throw shooting