Lakers Governor Alleges Kawhi Leonard's Uncle Requested Illegal Perks, Including Partial Ownership Of The Team
Did Kawhi play the Lakers or did the Lakers play themselves?
December 23, 2019 at 11:47 pm
Kawhi Leonard was the league's most coveted free agent this summer after his 2019 MVP performance led the Toronto Raptors to their first franchise championship.
It was believed that Leonard signing to the Los Angeles Lakers was all but certain until the three-time NBA All-Star reappeared in a Clippers uniform. The Athletic's Sam Amick now reports that talks fell apart with the Lakers after Leonard's uncle and advisor Dennis Robertson requested improper perks in return for Leonard's commitment: Robertson receiving partial ownership, a private plane, a house and a guaranteed amount of off-court endorsement money.
The requests were allegedly made to Lakers governor Jeanie Buss in three phone calls over a course of three days. According to the report, Buss refused, citing their illegal nature and sensed "that the Lakers were being used as leverage to help Leonard get what he wanted out of the Clippers."
"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," reported Amick.
When Johnson retired in 1991 after the groundbreaking acknowledgment of his HIV positive status, Lakers owner Jerry Buss still contractually owed Johnson $14 million. To fulfill this debt, Buss gave Johnson a 4% stake in the team, a move that is not illegal under the league's rules.
The improper requests soured the potential deal and created lingering resentment with Leonard's camp. The Lakers ultimately decided to wait out Leonard's free agency which resulted in the franchise missing out on several potential key free agents.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Athletic that the league is investigating "activities" from the free-agency season.
"We did tell our teams that we are looking into and continue to look into activities from this summer," Silver said. "I will also say that we [were] trying to draw a line at this board meeting, and focus everyone on the [free agency] rules going forward. I think that [I'll] just leave it at that."
Sources told Amick that Robertson also made similar requests of the Raptors.
This isn't the first time these claims have been brought to light. In July, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith discussed rumors of Robertson's exorbitant list of demands, stating that Leonard didn't play the Lakers but the Lakers "played themselves."
Leonard signed a three-year, $103 max contract with the Clippers in July. The report states the NBA investigated the Clippers based on complaints that Robertson asked for benefits from other teams. The NBA did not find any violations on the Clippers' behalf.
The NBA has reminded teams and the player's union that teams are only to communicate with the players' official agents, rather than family members or any other uncertified representatives of the player.
At the time of this publication, the Clippers are ranked third in the league with a 23-10 record.
Leonard responded to news of his uncle's alleged deeds by saying the story was fabricated.
“People make up stories every day,” Leonard said on Tuesday, according to The New York Post.