LaMarcus Aldridge came away from his meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers not wanting to play for the Lakers. It was widely speculated he wanted to play for the league's marquee franchise throughout the free agency process, but he reportedly felt the meeting focused too much on "outside opportunities" -- COME TO L.A.!!!!!! WE HAVE MOVIES!!!!! -- and not enough on basketball.
He also reportedly "didn't gel" with Kobe Bryant, who made a strange, strange, strange pitch:
Kobe spoke for about three minutes in the presentation, said he envisioned LaMarcus Aldridge working with him the same way Pau Gasol did.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
A team official insists Aldridge's apparent decision to snub the Lakers isn't Bryant's fault. That seems likely. Other teams have better assets, and the Lakers tried to hide that behind glitter and glitz. Aldridge had good reasons not to choose the Lakers, Kobe regardless.
But it seems Kobe didn't help. And if so, this is not the first time Bryant has been... well... less than tactful with a potential target or a teammate. In fact, at this point it seems to happen pretty much every year. (And let's not even go back to the whole Kobe vs. Shaq feud. That was rough.)
The Lakers technically didn't pursue Dwight Howard in free agency in 2012: he was under contract with the Magic, so they just had to trade for him. The question was whether it was worth trading for him if he wouldn't guarantee that he'd sign a long-term contract. So Bryant met with him, in hopes of convincing him he should stay in LA if traded there. It didn't go well: Real GM elaborated:
Bryant told Howard that he wanted him to come to Los Angeles and help him win two more championships, but not as an understudy. He wanted Howard to be the team's third option behind himself and Pau Gasol, according to a source. Bryant tried to sell Howard on being his "Tyson Chandler" and made it clear that Los Angeles would be his, but only once Bryant decided he was done playing.
Howard was turned off by the idea.
Howard stated that there was "no way" he would give up everything he has in Orlando to go to the Lakers and be the third option, a source close to the situation said. Howard certainly wouldn’t mind being a third piece on a star-studded team, similar to the situations in Miami and Boston. However, he was turned off by Bryant's presentation as it suggested something totally different.
Nonetheless, the Lakers agreed to trade for Howard and try their luck with Howard in the next offseason.
Howard played with the Lakers for a year -- a very strange year -- and now was a free agent. You'd think Kobe might have learned what to say to Dwight after spending a year with him, right? NOT A CHANCE.
"I know how to do it and I've learned from the best — players who have won multiple times over and over," Bryant said, according to witnesses. "Instead of trying to do things your way, just listen and learn and tweak it, so it fits you."
"Our approach," a Lakers source explained at the time, "is that we are interviewing for the job. We want to show that this is a place his dreams can come true."
As the Lakers' contingent settled into the conference room's ergonomic chairs, it was clear that two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, in a nice crisp shirt, listening attentively, was running Kupchak's game plan. But Bryant showed up, according to a person in the room, in "hoops shorts, a T-shirt and a gold chain."
Phil Jackson said in his autobiography that Howard was worried about the presence of Kobe for several years:
Dwight asked Kobe what he was planning to do after he recovered from his Achilles injury. Was this going to be his last year? ‘No,’ replied Kobe. ‘I’m planning to be around for three or four more years.’
At that point, according to others in the room, Dwight’s eyes went blank and he drifted away. In his mind, the game was over.
Howard eventually chose the Rockets. Last year, he insisted his decision to leave was based on positives in Houston rather than due to fear of Kobe. But at the time, reports indicated that Howard found the pitch to be "a turnoff."
Kobe didn't actually make it to a free agency meeting in 2013 -- he couldn't make it back from a vacation in Europe in time to meet Carmelo Anthony after the meeting time was changed. But Carmelo and Kobe are friends, so they talked outside of the meeting. It seems they mutually decided he shouldn't join the squad.
The conversations I had with Kobe was just man to man. We both had to come to reality and say, ‘Is this what we really want?' And it didn't happen.
Kobe Bryant remains one of the greatest basketball players of all time, a hero who has brought the Lakers incredible success, an unbelievable talent that will probably still get buckets against younger, spryer opponents once he's healthy, a warrior who has fought through all sorts of things in his career.
He's also kind of a sociopath and scares people, including a) me and b) free agents who want to hear how great they are rather than that they don't know how to win and that they'll be good second fiddles to Kobe.
Maybe stop asking him to talk to those people?