NBA investigating claim that Jerry West owes man $2.5M for help luring Kawhi Leonard to Clippers

Jason Owens

The NBA is investigating the Los Angeles Clippers and adviser Jerry West following a TMZ report about the recruitment of Kawhi Leonard, The Athletic and The New York Times report.

The Clippers later acknowledged the investigation in a statement denying the claims against them.

A man named Johnny Wilkes is suing West and the Clippers claiming he’s owed $2.5 million for helping recruit Leonard prior to the 2019-20 NBA season, according to documents obtained by TMZ.

Wilkes states in the lawsuit that he met West at Staples Center in April 2019 claiming that he was close with Leonard’s uncle Dennis Robertson aka “Uncle Dennis” and could help the Clippers land the league’s top free-agent prize that summer.

Robertson reportedly made outrageous demands of prospective teams including an ownership stake and access to a private plane during Leonard’s high-profile free agency.

West responds to allegation

An NBA investigation in 2019 reportedly found that the Clippers did not provide any improper benefits that would amount to tampering while recruiting Leonard. The TMZ report and subsequent investigation imply that tampering concerns are back on the table.

West denied the allegations made in Wilkes’ lawsuit in a statement to TMZ.

“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,” West said, per TMZ.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 13: Los Angeles Clippers executive board member Jerry West talks with Los Angeles Clippers Forward Kawhi Leonard (2) before a NBA preseason game between the Melbourne United and the Los Angeles Clippers on October 13, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
A man with purported ties to "Uncle Dennis" is suing Jerry West and the Los Angeles Clippers. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How Wilkes claims to have helped Clippers land Leonard

Wilkes claims that he told West that he would help the Clippers in exchange for $2.5 million, terms he said that West agreed to without following through. Wilkes also claims that he held up his end of the alleged bargain on multiple fronts.

According to TMZ, Wilkes claims he advised the Clippers to trade for Paul George in an effort to lure Leonard and acted as a liaison between West and Robertson. He claims that he lobbied Leonard and Robertson on the Clippers’ behalf and advised West on how he and then-head coach Doc Rivers should pitch Leonard during a meeting.

“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,” Wilkes claims in the lawsuit.

Wilkes also claims that West agreed to give Robertson a Southern California home and travel expense account, according to the report.

The Clippers denied Wilkes’ claims after news of the investigation broke.

“The lawsuit filed by Johnny Wilkes is replete with inaccuracies and the allegations are baseless,” the statement reads. “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.”

The Clippers tip off their second season with Leonard on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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