Friday marked the return of Lonnie Walker IV to San Antonio and brought with it, as basically any reunion does in the NBA nowadays, a tribute video from the Spurs. That’s not to say Walker, who spent four seasons and over 200 games in a Spurs uniform, didn’t deserve it.
But tribute videos are given to about everyone in the league. The Lakers gave Avery Bradley one during the preseason last year despite him playing just 49 games with the team at that point. These aren’t specifically bad, it’s just a more common occurrence than in years and generations past.
Which makes the fact Anthony Davis never received one from the Pelicans a bit surprising. Davis played seven seasons and 466 games in New Orleans, became a franchise cornerstone and had many memorable moments with the team. And yet, Davis did not receive a tribute video, something he noted during his walk-off interview with Mike Trudell on Spectrum Sportsnet after Friday’s win.
AD on the postgame spoke on Lonnie Walker and mentioned the tribute, and smiles saying "I wish I had one of those" pic.twitter.com/FOVfKHRzjT— Raj C. (@RajChipalu) November 26, 2022
The franchise had plenty of chances to do it. The two teams played 18 games into AD’s first season in Los Angeles and again in March of the year before the league was shut down, though Davis did not play in that latter contest.
But this is not a simple cut-and-dry situation. To make his way out of New Orleans, Davis had to burn some bridges. More bluntly, he nuked the bridges. Asking for a trade is going to rile up any fanbase with very few exceptions.
Davis, though, didn’t exactly make things easy. He informed the Pelicans he would not be re-signing with them in January of 2019, asking for a trade in the process. Even the way he did it, though, was uncommon as his agent, Rich Paul, publicly requested a trade through Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, a move that earned AD a fine as it broke CBA rules.
The breakup got messy as a disengaged AD closed out his Pelicans tenure in a less-than-motivated fashion, playing just 10 times in the team’s final 22 games. Memorably, he showed up to the final game of the season in a “That’s All Folks!” shirt that was funny from afar but continued burning those bridges, especially after his...reasoning for wearing the shirt.
Eventually, after publicly requesting a trade, playing very sporadically to end the year and sporting a shirt that was going to rub everyone the wrong way in New Orleans, Davis got his wish and was dealt. The final straw, though, came in what he hasn’t done since.
The Pelicans offered thanks to Davis on social media despite how the final months played out, though you can take a look at the replies to their tweet to see how he was viewed in New Orleans at the time.
We thank Anthony Davis for his contributions to our organization and community over the last 7 years. He left a lasting impact on our franchise with his outstanding performances on the court and with his philanthropic efforts in New Orleans! pic.twitter.com/dLcH4teBS7— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) July 7, 2019
Davis, though, never returned the favor. Even to this day, some three years later, Davis never thanked the city or fans of New Orleans. And the fans are very aware of that. Locked on Saints host Ross Jackson has long had a running (hilarious) bit on Twitter dedicated to the fact that AD has still not thanked the city.
Sean Payton thanked New Orleans before AD did.— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) January 25, 2022
And he’ll probably thank all four cities before AD thanks New Orleans. https://t.co/DPzyOgZYR1— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) November 21, 2020
Anthony Davis requests thank you from New Orleans before AD thanks New Orleans. https://t.co/WJDltiqTX9— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) November 26, 2022
To call the relationship between AD, New Orleans and, as an extension, the Pelicans icy would be an understatement. It really did not help that, prior to his first return to New Orleans as a Laker in November of 2019, he doubled down and said he had no regrets on how he left the franchise and city and wouldn’t change the process.
It would be an exponentially worse look if the Pelicans tried to play a tribute video to AD and he was booed, which is exactly what would happen. So, then, you’re left in a spot where that’s just simply not an option.
Davis made his bed and now has to lie in it. Now, his bed features an NBA title and is next to LeBron James’ so I doubt he regrets the end result but it doesn’t change how he got there. Neither side is probably regretful of the end result as AD has a ring and the Pelicans have a very bright future already and more Lakers draft picks coming down the line.
Maybe one day, tensions will ease and he might get that video. I don’t think Lakers fans would have ever thought they’d think so fondly of Dwight Howard when he left in 2013 and look how things ended in 2020 and how he’s viewed now.
Friday may have been some form of regret coming to the surface for AD, wishing things had ended differently between him and New Orleans. But that’s not what happened in reality. And in this situation, AD can’t have his cake and eat it, too.