Kawhi Leonard and his famed uncle Dennis Robertson made daily news with their highly secretive yet constantly publicized 2019 NBA free agency.
This free agency included the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, and the Los Angeles Clippers, who Leonard ended up signing with on a three-year, $103 million deal.
Despite the lack of information coming directly from Leonard and Robertson, leaks from the Lakers, Clippers, and Raptors helped to detail an extremely intriguing six days in July, including the Paul George trade request and several fascinating details from Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and Magic Johnson. At the end of the day, it seemed as though Leonard simply wanted to go home and preferred the Clippers, but would only choose them if they got George via trade.
However, perhaps the most absurd piece of news from the whole free agency saga came on Dec. 23 when it was revealed that Leonard and Robertson reportedly asked the Lakers and others for things that would be direct violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic:
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 Leonard played for their team. All of those items, to be clear, would fall well outside the confines of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Not only this but when owner Jeanie Buss and the Lakers declined the request, Robertson responded by asking why Johnson was given an ownership stake in the team despite the situations being completely different:
A source with knowledge of the Kawhi-Lakers talks said Robertson made those requests repeatedly to owner Jeanie Buss over the course of three phone calls that spanned several days, and that she 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.
These new details add a major dose of controversy to what became one of the most followed free agencies in league history. The NBA’s investigation of the matter concluded that the Clippers did not meet any of these demands, but it will forever be questioned.
From now on, the NBA is likely to be far more sensitive and aware of player conversations with teams during free agency because if they don’t, the player power that makes the NBA so great could eventually turn into an abuse of that power.