Everyone knows now that the Lakers were in pursuit of Kawhi Leonard in the summer, and were, at times, pretty confident that they were going to succeed in signing him to a long-term deal. Ultimately, Kawhi spurned the Lakers and his former team, the Raptors, joining the Los Angeles Clippers following their blockbuster trade to acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Everyone also has heard about Kawhi’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, and how he had an impact on this free agency as well as the trade that brought Kawhi to the Toronto Raptors from the San Antonio Spurs.
However, it’s just now coming out that Uncle Dennis may have tried to have a pretty sizeable impact on Kawhi’s free agency in 2019, which included the request of “improper benefits” according to Sam Amick and The Athletic.
According to three sources with knowledge of the situation, the NBA conducted a formal investigation of the Clippers last summer after complaints surfaced that Robertson had asked for improper benefits during the free agency process.
Sources say the league was told that Robertson asked team officials for part ownership of the team, a private plane that would be available at all times, a house and — last but certainly not least — a guaranteed amount of off-court endorsement money that they could expect if (Kawhi) Leonard played for their team.
Oh my goodness. Uncle Dennis really wanted him and Kawhi to have their cake and eat it too.
To be clear, Sam Amick of The Athletic points out that “sources with knowledge of the investigation said no evidence was found indicating that the Clippers had granted any of the lavish requests”. Amick also states that these requests were reportedly made to the Lakers and Jeanie Buss “repeatedly”, with this being the result:
…she (Jeanie Buss) made it clear that such perks were illegal and would not be considered. There was even a question raised by Robertson about why Lakers legend Magic Johnson had been given a small piece of Lakers ownership so many years ago, with Buss explaining that the two situations couldn’t have been more different – even beyond the fact that one was legal and the other was not.
When Johnson was forced to retire in 1991 because he had contracted HIV, the late Lakers owner and Jeanie’s father, Jerry, still owed him approximately $14 million on the 25-year, $25 million deal he had signed a decade before. So, Jerry decided at the time, the Lakers would enter into an equity relationship with Johnson in his post-playing days as a way of ensuring that he and his family – who feared the worst at the time – were financially secure
Yeah, nice try, Dennis.
It should be noted that these are all reports, and can’t fully be confirmed as the truth. However, Uncle Dennis has been a somewhat mythological and eccentric character when described by the media, and these requests don’t seem out of the realm with him. Whether or not Kawhi was involved at all with these reported requests remain to be seen. Either way, this adds another variable to the drama that was within this specific transaction in the NBA, one that has changed the landscape of the league itself.