Julius Randle says he wanted to follow in Kobe Bryant’s footsteps, spend entire career with Lakers

Peter Dewey
5 Min Read
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Former Los Angeles Lakers and current New York Knicks forward Julius Randle recently shared that he wanted to spend his entire career with the Lakers upon joining the organization.

He explained that he wanted to be like Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in that regard, who spent all 20 of his NBA seasons with the Purple and Gold.

“I only wanted to play for the Lakers when I got there,” Randle said. “I was like – I wanted that Kobe, 20 years, play for one organization type thing. And I remember my agent lookin’ at me. He was like – I was young and naive – and he lookin’ at me, he like, ‘Bro, I want that for you too, but that s— really just don’t happen much.’

“And I’m like, ‘Man, you don’t know me. I’m doin’ it.’”

Randle, who was drafted by the Lakers with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, spent the first four seasons of his career in Los Angeles. However, Randle ended up getting pushed out of Los Angeles when LeBron James decided to sign with the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Now a star with the Knicks, Randle explained how his free agency unfolded that offseason and how he ended up landing with the New Orleans Pelicans instead of staying in Los Angeles.

“I obviously wanted to be with the Lakers, but it was like – it really didn’t matter,” Randle said. “And then obviously Bron was comin’ and stuff, so it was like, ‘Yeah, get your a– outta here.’ I remember that, but it was also tricky because I was a restricted free agent.”

Randle explained that the offseason was a “wait-and-see game” since the Lakers could technically match any offer sheet that he signed due to him being restricted.

“So, I remember, the money basically dried up,” Randle said. “And I was kinda in limbo, and the team – I knew I wasn’t goin’ back to the Lakers. Bron had came there, I think K.C.P. (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) had signed, or re-signed shortly after, so there was no money there. And I was a restricted (free) agent. I’m lookin’ at all the teams with money, and I’m like, ‘They don’t got no money either.’”

Randle revealed he may have had a chance to end up with the Miami Heat or Cleveland Cavaliers via a sign-and-trade, but it didn’t end up coming to fruition. Instead, he had to accept a mid-level exception deal, and he chose New Orleans.

“The situation is what it is – let’s look for the best fit,” Randle said of his approach at that point. “And I remember Aaron [Mintz] was like, ‘Man, go play in New Orleans – New Orleans really, really wants you. And you play alongside A.D. (Anthony Davis) – that’s a great fit.’”

Randle only spent a year with the Pelicans, but he put up big numbers, averaging 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. That led to him getting a major deal in free agency from the Knicks.

Since signing with New York, Randle has seen his career take off. He’s been named to three All-Star teams, two All-NBA teams and won a Most Improved Player award over the last five seasons (including this one).

The Knicks have made the playoffs in two of Randle’s seasons with the team, and they look to be on their way to another playoff berth this season.

While he wasn’t able to fulfill his dream of being a Laker for life, Randle has certainly made the most out of what was a tough situation after his rookie deal was up.

As for the Lakers, they ended up winning a title because James came to Los Angeles, so it appears things worked out for both sides in the end.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.