As Anthony Davis told Dave McMenamin of ESPN, he called Leonard once during free agency and felt the Lakers had a legitimate shot at signing him:
"I don't really know Kawhi like that—I don't think no one really knows Kawhi like that. But obviously we were hopeful. 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."
He added that he and LeBron James were starting to envision the possibilities of that big three.
"I think it [has] always been about the Big Three," Davis says. "We were talking like, 'Man, we get Kawhi, man, this is what we can do. We can do it like this, this, this, this. ...'"
Instead, Leonard chose the Clippers, joining Paul George to create a Staples Center rivalry that is one of the top storylines heading into the 2019-20 season. Los Angeles has long been a Lakers town, but with a pair of elite, two-way wings on their side, the Clippers are set to stake their claim.
Leonard's decision changed the entire landscape of the NBA. Had he chosen the Lakers, it would have likely created another potential dynasty, just as the previous one—the Golden State Warriors—had come apart due to injuries and the departure of Kevin Durant in free agency.
Instead, the current landscape includes parity and a huge swath of teams with legitimate title aspirations. In the West, the Clippers and Lakers lead the pack, but teams like the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Warriors (once Klay Thompson returns from his ACL tear), Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers all have a shot.
The East, at least for this season, appears to be a two-team battle between the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. But in the future, the return of Durant to the Brooklyn Nets will add a third team to the mix, while the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers remain talented squads.
It's an exciting time in the NBA, in large part because Leonard didn't go to the Lakers. Granted, one of the aforementioned teams could always add another star, tipping the balance of power yet again. But for now, the league is wide open.
And all eyes turn to Los Angeles, where two of the most talented teams in the NBA are battling for both a city and Western Conference prominence.