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Remembering the most hilarious tampering caper in NBA history

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Five years ago today, the Clippers went to great lengths to get their man.

Los Angeles Clippers v New Orleans Pelicans

Before the Clippers pulled off the greatest free-agency coup in franchise history last season, their most dramatic offseason moment took place on a Wednesday in 2015, when every player on the team simultaneously discovered how to use travel emojis.

Five years ago today, the NBA community was enraptured by the DeAndre Jordan free agency saga, as the Clippers persuaded the All-NBA center to back out of a contract agreement with the Dallas Mavericks and come back to Los Angeles. They then held him “hostage” at his home in Houston until the deal could officially be signed at 10 p.m. CT, leaving Mark Cuban and Chandler Parsons in a lurch.

There had been rumors of discontent between Jordan and Chris Paul at the time, and the Clippers were coming off a heartbreaking playoff loss to the Houston Rockets, but it was still shocking when Marc Stein reported that Jordan would be joining the Mavericks. JJ Redick went on the radio that week and said the Clippers deserved an F– for their offseason because they had failed at their no. 1 task.

Then we woke up Wednesday morning to the news that the Clippers were back in the hunt for Jordan’s services.

All of a sudden, the emoji war began. This oral history from Josh Coyne details all of the madness that ensued, from Parsons’ plane emoji to Redick’s car to Blake Griffin’s chopper and even Paul’s banana boat. Redick did indeed drive from his offseason home of Austin to see Jordan in Houston, though he had arrived by the time he sent the tweet, but Griffin’s was a ruse — he had left Hawaii the day before and met Jordan for dinner on Tuesday night.

The funniest part that I hadn’t remembered was everyone else in the league joining in the Twitter moment, like Michael Jordan tweeting a goat emoji and his six championship trophies, with Scottie Pippen adding “what MJ said”. The rumor of Cuban frantically driving around the city trying to locate Jordan was also hilarious, even if misreported in real time. Cuban knew where Jordan lived, but the center was ducking his calls.

And who can forget Griffin’s tweet about Jordan’s interior decorating.

Doc Rivers said the day of was actually fairly monotonous. Jordan made the decision to re-sign fairly early, and then they spent the rest of the day playing cards, eating fried chicken, and watching Summer League. Paul Pierce’s greatest contribution as a Clipper — no joke, this was actually his most substantial input — was convincing the rest of the party to wait at Jordan’s house until he signed on the dotted line.

Jordan agreed with Rivers’ assessment about the lack of intrigue the day of in an interview with GQ, and it’s very relatable how the then-26-year-old talks about spending the day with Rivers and Steve Ballmer.

Seriously, it was quite boring to be honest. There wasn’t a lot going on. We had a couple hour conversation, then I said I was going back to the Clippers and then I had to wait there until I signed my contract. But not much was going on. People took naps. We ate. We watched TV. It wasn’t exciting at all. It was boring. I couldn’t wait for Doc [Rivers] and Ballmer to leave my house, so I could enjoy some alone time. I mean my bosses were at my house all day. It’s hard to have fun with your friends with your bosses around.

Redick’s podcast with Zach Lowe in the aftermath of the whole affair is a must-listen, particularly when he describes his emotions on the drive back to Austin. There are also great details in the oral history about Parsons’ emotions throughout the ordeal, though he got over it and even got a joke in when Jordan eventually signed with Dallas in 2018. Did you remember that Jordan used an emoji to break his decision then? I did not.

Two years after leaving Los Angeles, Jordan remains a beloved Clipper, and it’s weird to imagine a situation where he left Lob City before Paul and Griffin. Thankfully, he stayed, and we all got to enjoy that surreal day on NBA Twitter.