Paul George – a California native – reportedly told Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers. Eventually, he told Indiana’s front office he planned to sign with the Lakers in 2018 free agency. With George on the trade block and other teams interested, he still told friends he planned to sign with the Lakers. Even after re-signing with the Thunder last year, George said he would’ve signed with the Lakers if not dealt to Oklahoma City. He still called the Lakers tempting.
But introduced by the Clippers today, George sang a different tune.
I grew up a Clippers fan. I loved the Clippers as a kid.
As much of a Clippers fan, I was a Kobe fan. Kobe was my idol growing up.
Clippers been my team. For me, it was a chance to come back home and be a part of something that was already special.
This is surreal to be home and do it for a team that I grew up and wanted to be a part of ever since they missed out on me in the draft.
That quickly caused a rush to paint George as a liar. People dug up old videos:
And old tweets:
But George’s Clippers fandom seems sincere.
Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times:
There’s older evidence, too. Just after joining the Thunder, George elaborated on how he viewed the Clippers and Lakers growing up.
Scott Agness, now of The Athletic:
Maybe the water was muddied by George’s impending free agency. But this goes back before George even entered the NBA.
After interviewing George in 2010, DraftExpress called the Clippers “his favorite team growing up.”
It seems this is just as George said: He was a Clippers fan and Lakers fan.
The 29-year-old grew up watching Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant win championships. He was clearly enthused about the Lakers’ Bryant-led 2009 and 2010 titles, as his old tweets show. He’s openly fond of Bryant.
But he also repeatedly identified as a Clippers fan – long before they started paying him.
Of course, George emphasized his Clippers fandom over his Lakers fandom today. When he appeared close to joining the Lakers, he talked up his connection to that franchise. He looks prone to telling people what they want to hear.
How did George’s passion for the Clippers compare to his passion for the Lakers growing up? I have no idea.
But there’s plenty of evidence we should take George at his word: He rooted for the Clippers growing up. His praise of the Lakers – including of Bryant today! – doesn’t disprove anything.