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Jerry West sued for $2.5 million in a possible tampering case involving Kawhi Leonard


Remember uncle Dennis? For a while, Kawhi's uncle Dennis Robertson was the biggest mystery in the NBA. There were many rumors and stories about the requests Kawhi's camp allegedly had, and a lot of them involved perks for uncle Dennis.

“Allegedly, the uncle, Uncle Dennis, was asking for a lot of stuff from the other teams; houses, planes, sponsorship, guaranteed sponsorship money, just as an example. They’re throwing this stuff out there. All of those things are supposedly illegal in the collective bargaining agreement. I have no idea whether this is true or not. I’m not trying to cast any aspersions on Uncle Dennis, but people in NBA circles are talking about this as we speak.”

Steven A.Smith (July 22, 2019), Basketball Network

One of them is becoming public as Jerry West is being sued by a man claiming he helped the Clippers get Leonard. TMZ Sports reported that a man named Johnny Wilkes is suing West for $2.5 million plus damages. Wilkes claims he approached West in April of 2019 and said he has close ties with Kawhi and uncle Dennis, which could help the Clips land the superstar. In exchange, Wilkes asked for 2.5 million, and according to his lawsuit, West agreed. Wilkes says he helped the Clippers by doing several key things. 

  • convincing Kawhi and uncle Dennis to leave Toronto and join the Clippers
  • informed the Clippers they need to get Paul George to get Kawhi
  • gave the Clippers specific pointers on how to pitch Kawhi
  • facilitate a deal between West and Kawhi's uncle ... in which West agreed to give Uncle Dennis a Southern California home and a travel expense account.
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“This information was vital because it was the exact information Kawhi Leonard wanted to hear at the time in order to effectuate his signing with the Clippers.”

Johnny Wilkes, TMZ

As he received no money, Wilkes decided to take up legal action. TMZ updated their report with a comment from a rep for Jerry West, who made a brief statement. 

“I am not aware of any lawsuit being filed against me and I deny engaging in any improper conduct in connection with the signing of Kawhi Leonard.”

Jerry West, TMZ

We have no idea if this story is true, but there are a few moments in the accusation that make it possible. Several reports had Uncle Dennis making significant asks for himself as a condition to land Kawhi's services. Secondly, using intermediaries is a way of trying to circumvent league rules - that's how colleges get around NCAA regulations. This is how one would try to tamper and get away with it. 

What interests me is the NBA's reaction to this. The Bogdanović trade to Milwaukee was canceled after it became obvious there was communication before it was possible by NBA rules. I'd say there's already enough here for the league to invite Mr. Wilkes for a cup of coffee and see how much proof he has. 

If a court decides there's enough in the claim to start official proceedings, the NBA should launch an official investigation if they want to be consistent and treat all teams equally. Adam Silver's move. 

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