The Los Angeles Clippers signing Kawhi Leonard was enormous for the history of their franchise on several levels. It obviously vaulted them into championship contention, as the pairing of Leonard and Paul George is one of the best in all of basketball. But it also represented the franchise's first true victory over the Lakers within their own city. The Lakers pursued Leonard heavily, and at one point, were even considered the favorites to sign him in free agency. They couldn't seal the deal, a feeling the Clippers know all too well from another free agency battle that the two engaged in 15 years ago.
In 2004, Kobe Bryant became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. After years of battles with Shaquille O'Neal, he was ready to consider other options for his future. The primary competition that the Lakers faced was the Clippers, and as Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler told Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, the Lakers came closer to losing Bryant than the world ever realized.
“They made their pitch to Kobe and it was a very strong one because it seemed apparent to everyone at that point that Kobe and Shaq just could no longer co-exist,” Lawler said. “Then it’s time for Kobe to excuse himself and go and Donald Sterling walks him to the door expressing concern. ‘Is this really going to happen?’