Earlier this week, a Los Angeles man named Johnny Wilkes filed a lawsuit against Clippers consultant Jerry West for a cool $2.5 million. Wilkes alleges West failed to pay him after Wilkes allegedly played a critical role in guiding Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers last summer. According to the suit, which was first reported on by TMZ, Wilkes claims he gave the Clippers the idea of trading for Paul George to sway Leonard. “This information was vital,” Wilkes wrote, “because it was the exact information Kawhi Leonard wanted to hear at the time in order to effectuate his signing with the Clippers.”
Wilkes also claims he was connected to Leonard’s infamous uncle Dennis Robertson, and that he got West to agree to give Robertson a house as well as a travel account. He says he first pitched Jerry West in April 2019, and once Leonard signed, he says he went out for a celebratory dinner with him and others in Beverly Hills.
Both the team and Leonard have denied that any such arrangement was made, though Marc Stein reported on Thursday night that the NBA has opened an investigation into Wilkes’s allegations. “The lawsuit filed by Johnny Wilkes is replete with inaccuracies and the allegations are baseless,” the Clippers said in a statement. “The Clippers are fully cooperating with the NBA in its investigation, which is standard when these types of allegations are made. They are providing the NBA with evidence that the allegations are false.”
After a preseason game against the Jazz on Thursday, Leonard shot down Wilkes’s version of events.
As of Thursday, no real evidence to support Wilkes’s story had surfaced, and the whole thing smelled like any of the dozens of specious lawsuits filed against athletes every year. But on Friday, TMZ published audio of what they claim is a voicemail that West left with Wilkes on July 1, 2019, four days before Leonard signed with the Clippers. In the voicemail, someone who sounds a lot like West thanks the recipient for trying to help. Most juicily, he trashes his former team. “I just find it hard to believe that he would want to go to that shit show where he would not even be … wouldn’t even get his name in the paper and he wouldn’t be the face of the franchise, that’s for sure,” the man says.
Even if no actual consequences come of this, it is extremely funny that the NBA logo, a man who made 14 All-Star appearances with the Lakers, is now on record as (correctly!) diagnosing the Magic Johnson-era Lakers as a shit show. At this point only one course of action seems fair for all parties involved: Punish Kawhi Leonard with exile to the Sacramento Kings.