A $2.5 million lawsuit that was filed against the LA Clippers and consultant Jerry West by plaintiff Johnny Wilkes in December 2020 was dismissed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday.
In his suit, Wilkes alleged that he and West had reached an agreement on a verbal deal during the summer of 2019 that would aid the Clippers in the potential signing of then-free agent Kawhi Leonard through information and Wilkes’ close relationship with both Leonard and Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson. The Clippers ultimately did sign Leonard in July 2019.
The case featured several depositions, including ones that involved both Wilkes and West, as well as Clippers president of basketball operations, Lawrence Frank. In his deposition, Frank stated that West, while acting as a consultant to the team, was an independent contractor that did not have any power to enter into any type of contract on behalf of the Clippers with the plaintiff.
The judge ultimately dismissed the case, writing the following:
“Accordingly, even looking at the acts and conduct of the parties, the only reasonable inference supported by the evidence is that there was not an agreement for plaintiff to be paid $2.5 million in exchange for an act or forbearance, nor did plaintiff promise to perform specific services in exchange for $2.5 million,” the judge wrote.
Wilkes alleged in his filing that he and West entered into a verbal agreement via phone call on June 28, 2019.
The judge wrote that according to Wilkes’ own testimony, the statements that were allegedly made in the June 28, 2019, phone conversation were “too vague and uncertain to support a claim that Mr. West, either in his personal capacity or on behalf of the Clippers, promised to pay plaintiff $2.5 million for his help.”
The NBA had also previously investigated the allegations made against West and the team back when the lawsuit was filed in December 2020. In a statement at that time, the team said, “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.”
In the days after the lawsuit was filed in December 2020, The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported that the NBA had already investigated the Clippers for tampering during the Leonard free agent sweepstakes, writing, “sources with knowledge of the investigation said no evidence was found indicating that the Clippers had granted any of the lavish requests.”
Following a preseason game against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 17, 2020, Leonard was asked about the allegations, and he denied there was any validity to them.
“Not at all. That has nothing to do with me coming here... I’m from LA. I grew up here my whole life. Out here, people try to find any way to get some money. It probably won’t be the last. I know a lot of people out here.”— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) December 18, 2020
Kawhi Leonard shuts down the Johnny Wilkes rumors. pic.twitter.com/mg0sxlRXfa
Leonard missed all of the 2021-22 season for the Clippers due to a partially torn right anterior cruciate ligament. The star forward has averaged 26.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.7 steals on 48.8% shooting in the 109 games he’s played since coming to Los Angeles.