The Clippers didn’t even get a meeting with LeBron James.
Instead, he joined the Lakers after the briefest of flirtations.
And Clippers consultant Jerry West has an idea as to why.
“All due respect to the Lakers, who handled everything well, but, as these things go, LeBron was not a tough free-agent signing,” West, himself a Lakers legend, told Sports Illustrated.
“LeBron wanted to come to L.A. and he wanted to come to the Lakers. Period. He has a family he’s thinking about. He has a home here. [Actually two homes.] He has a son [13-year-old ‘Bronny’ Jr.] whom he wants to keep in one school in Los Angeles. He will be a celebrity out here, sure, but it’s a place where, once in a while, he can get lost, be himself. You can’t do that everywhere.”
West is certainly right that Los Angeles is a more attractive city for an omnipresent stud like LeBron. But the Lakers hadn’t landed a superstar free agent since Shaquille O’Neal came in 1996 — while West was their GM.
Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka apparently didn’t have to do much in-person convincing of LeBron, sure. But they worked to clear their cap sheet and recover from the previous regime’s awful signings. All while maintaining a steady stream of young talent, no simple task.
That made the Lakers an even more attractive destination for LeBron.
Why the dash of salt from West, the architect of four championship Lakers teams and the star of one more who also played a key role in the Warriors’ rise to dominance?
It might have to do with the Lakers’ reluctance to let him end his basketball career with the franchise with which he spent the duration of his 14-year playing career.
“Sometimes I thought that in my life that maybe that might be something that I can revisit, or they would want me to revisit,” West said of the Lakers in 2017. “But that didn’t happen. At times, I don’t say I was disappointed, but it kind of sent me a message that they wanted to go elsewhere, which is fine. But to say that I wouldn’t have liked to ended my career there, that wouldn’t necessarily be true either.”
You’d be salty about having to settle for the Clippers, too.