Back in 2017, nearly everybody around the NBA had a picture of Paul George photoshopped in a Los Angeles Lakers’ jersey. It was the closest thing to a done deal as most could imagine. The kid from Palmdale, whom worshipped Kobe Bryant and requested a trade from the Indiana Pacers to his hometown team, finally had his chance to dawn the purple and gold. The only problem? He didn’t.
Following George’s request to be traded to the Lakers, the Pacers did not oblige and instead traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder. At the time, Lakers fans celebrated the move. Most believed there was little chance that big-city-dreaming Paul George would stick around the Midwest. He spent a good portion of the 2017-18 season flirting with the idea of joining Magic Johnson in Los Angeles. George admitted to enjoying the loud ovations at Staples Center and made public comments about the possibilities. He even shared a sweet homecoming with his parents during his brief stops to LA.
However, during his first season with the Thunder, Paul George felt a sense of community that he did not expect. From the day he first arrived in Oklahoma City, the fans and the organization made him feel at home. While many thought that he and Russell Westbrook could not coexist, his bond with the star guard only strengthened as the season progressed, despite a relatively disappointing season. Days leading up to the start of free agency, reports began to surface of Paul George’s intent to re-sign with the Thunder. Sure enough, rather than even granting a meeting with Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and the Lakers, George instead spent the night of free agency partying with teammate Russell Westbrook. It was just after midnight that George announced his return to the franchise.
Despite the unexpected blow, things got better quickly in La-La Land. The following day, LeBron James and Klutch Sports announced that James would leave Cleveland yet again to join the Los Angeles Lakers. Folks around Los Angeles began to forget about Paul George and moved toward the upcoming season. Paul George, on the other hand, has made several comments about how the Lakers missed their opportunity to sign George by not trading for him to begin with. George felt disrespected and felt like the Lakers did not want him enough. Reports and fans (and Magic’s pocketbook) say otherwise, but in an offseason where big fish number one was LeBron James, maybe he was right.