The Los Angeles Lakers swung for the fences in free agency, watching the top players available sign elsewhere as they pursued Kawhi Leonard. The 2019 NBA Finals MVP spurned the league’s marquee franchise for L.A.’s other team, choosing the Los Angeles Clippers and forming a new title contender.

Toward the end of the Kawhi Leonard Sweepstakes, the Lakers were viewed by many as the favorites to land the superstar. After the team traded for Anthony Davis, Leonard had the chance to form a super-team with LeBron James and the best big man in basketball.

Winning might have ultimately been Leonard’s No.1 priority in free agency. The fact that the Lakers already had multiple superstars on the roster, however, might have actually worked against the organization in their pursuit of Leonard.

“Elite players like Kawhi earn their stripes, and he was not going to be a guy who joins a so-called ‘super-team,’” a source close to the situation told The Athletic’s Shams Charania. “Now, if a super-team forms around him, there is nothing he can control. The Clippers were the best long-term fit.”

Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors runs down the floor in the first half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on January 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Leonard has ascended to the top of the league by tearing down super-teams. When he won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs, he defeated the Miami Heat’s “Big 3,” ending their bid for a three-peat. The Golden State Warriors fell short of a three-peat in June because Leonard performed like the best player in basketball.

While Davis and James might have indirectly hurt the Lakers’ pursuit of Leonard, another NBA great seemed to inadvertently play an active role in pushing the superstar toward Los Angeles’ second franchise. 

Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson made it known in late June that both Leonard and his uncle, Dennis Robertson, asked to meet with him during free agency. Leonard reportedly asked the teams he was considering—the Lakers, Clippers and Toronto Raptors—to avoid leaking any information about his free agency process.

By failing to keep Leonard’s request private, Johnson didn’t help the Lakers’ chance of landing a third star.

“I truly believe that when Magic started telling the media about the meeting he had with Kawhi and Dennis, that sealed the fate of the Lakers,” someone involved in the process told The Athletic. “I think that right there was when Dennis and Kawhi decided we can’t trust the Lakers as an organization. And that was it. I think that was it for them.”

Johnson’s openness with the media when it came to Leonard and the Lakers could have only been a small factor in the All-Star’s final decision. Had the Clippers not been able to trade for Paul George, Leonard might have decided to join the Lakers, since doing so would’ve given him the best chance to win championships over the next several years.

With arguably the two best duos in the NBA, the Lakers and the Clippers are the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Finals.