Kawhi Leonard was the most sought after unrestricted free agent this summer, especially after he led the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship while also picking up the NBA Finals MVP accolade. The small forward had two choices in front of him, one was to remain in Canada with the title-winning franchise, the other was to return home to Los Angeles.

The 28-year-old has made no secret of his desire to return to Los Angeles when pushing for a trade from San Antonio Spurs in 2018 but he was traded to the Raptors, much to his dismay. He buckled down and led his new employers to a championship and they were hoping he would commit his long-term future to the team.

Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers were also keen to sign Leonard and held multiple meetings with the forward in the summer. Anthony Davis, who joined the Lakers via trade from the New Orleans Pelicans in the summer, believed his team were “very, very” close to signing Leonard before he decided to eventually join the Clippers after they managed to convince Oklahoma City Thunder to trade Paul George.

“I don’t really know Kawhi like that — I don’t think no one really knows Kawhi like that. But obviously we were hopeful,” Davis said, as quoted on Silver Screen and Roll. “I definitely thought that it was a possibility that we could get him. … I’m not going to be a haggling guy. Especially when he came and said he didn’t really like the media [attention] and people pressuring him. But I think there was a time where all of us felt like we were really, really close to getting Kawhi.”

Anthony Davis Lakers
Anthony Davis celebrates after scoring a basket in his Lakers debut. Silver Screen and Roll

The Lakers had put any other free agent recruitment on hold in order to focus on Leonard, which saw them miss out on the likes of Kemba Walker and D’Angelo Russell, who agreed deals with other teams in the meantime. Davis admitted that teammate LeBron James and he were envisioning the possibility of playing with Leonard and forming the Big Three which would have likely dominated the NBA.

“I think it [has] always been about the Big Three,” the Lakers power forward said. “We were talking like, ‘Man, we get Kawhi, man, this is what we can do. We can do it like this, this, this, this. …'”

The Lakers may have missed out on creating the Big Three but with the addition of Davis, JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley, they are still being touted as the second favorites behind the Clippers to win the 2020 NBA championship.