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How Kobe Bryant helped the Dodgers sign Shohei Ohtani

The Dodgers held onto a special video from Kobe Bryant that helped them seal the signing of Shohei Ohtani.

Los Angeles Dodgers Introduce Shohei Ohtani Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

To land a free agent like Shohei Ohtani, the Dodgers needed an all-hands-on-deck approach. Included in those “all hands” was a very special video message from Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

First filmed in 2017 when the Dodgers pursued Ohtani, the short video of Kobe Bryant was not used in their free agency pitch. Fast forward a half-decade and with the video still available, the Dodgers turned to it this time around.

In a piece breaking down the Dodgers’ recruitment and signing of Ohtani by Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Passan of ESPN, the details of the Kobe video were revealed.

Back in 2017, Bryant had filmed the clip as a favor to the team. Now, more than three years after his death in a helicopter crash, Bryant’s reputation as the ultimate competitor spans all sports, and his message to Ohtani registered the same posthumously in 2023 as it would have then: There’s no better place in the world to win than Los Angeles, and there’s no better team in baseball to win with than the Dodgers. This was their best pitch — the equivalent of Ohtani’s sweeper to Mike Trout that ended the World Baseball Classic — and it suggested that even if 2012 and 2017 weren’t the time for Ohtani and the Dodgers, now was. Now was when he could build a legacy beyond the two American League Most Valuable Player awards and his reputation as the most talented player ever into something even better: championship rings.

In some ways, the impact of having a message from Kobe might have carried more weight in 2023 than in 2017. Even if just with the Angels, Ohtani likely learned of how important Kobe was to the city of Los Angeles. Having a message from him telling him to be a Dodger perhaps carried even more weight, as a result, during free agency this year.

There is something special about winning in Los Angeles, particularly with the Lakers and Dodgers, considering their long histories with the city and how embedded they are. Few experienced that more than Kobe, who won and lost in Los Angeles. Having him be able to pass that message on to another generation of talents is a wonderful thing.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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