Kobe Bryant Explains Why He Thinks Kawhi Leonard Chose Clippers Over Lakers

Brad Sullivan
3 Min Read

This past summer, the Los Angeles Lakers made a concerted effort to sign free agent forward Kawhi Leonard, but ultimately lost out to their Staples Center co-tenant Los Angeles Clippers.

While former Lakers great Kobe Bryant undoubtedly would have preferred a different result, he offered his reasoning as to why Leonard ended up casting his lot with the Clippers.


As a native of Los Angeles, it was clear that Leonard would choose either the Lakers or Clippers if he ended up leaving his then team, the Toronto Raptors. At one point, the news of Leonard signing with the Lakers was seemingly imminent, yet it ultimately ended in painful rejection for the Lakers organization and its fan base.

The Clippers first arrived in Los Angeles in 1984, after previous stops in Buffalo and San Diego turned out to be financial failures. For most of the time since then, they’ve remained in the shadow of the Lakers, who have eight NBA titles to their credit since that arrival.

A key reason why the Clippers continually floundered was the ownership of the infamous Donald Sterling, who was forced out five years ago after racist remarks he had made became public. He sold the team to Steve Ballmer, who has since sought to make a dent in the Lakers’ hold on the Southern California market.

Signing Leonard and acquiring fellow Los Angeles native Paul George have gone a long way in making the Clippers one of the favorites to win an NBA title next June. The challenge that Bryant mentioned is to bring the Clippers their first NBA title, as opposed to the 11 that the Lakers have won since their arrival in the city in 1960.

If that is the motivation for Leonard, it’s similar to what drove Lakers forward LeBron James to return to his original team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, back in 2014. Having grown up in the Cleveland area, James was returning to a franchise that had never won an NBA title and to a city that hadn’t won a major sports championship since 1964. James was able to change that narrative by leading the Cavaliers to a dramatic comeback seven-game series victory in 2016.

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Brad is a freelance writer for LakersDaily.com, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.