Shohei Ohtani free agency pitch: How Kobe Bryant helped Dodgers land Japanese superstar three years after his passing

The Dodgers left no stone unturned in their effort to secure the services of Shohei Ohtani, employing every one of their resources in the hopes of reeling in the biggest catch in baseball history.

One of the more convincing arrows in their quiver was a minute-long clip from six years back that featured another Los Angeles sporting icon: none other than Kobe Bryant.

According to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Passan, the Dodgers reincorporated a video that Bryant recorded on the organization’s behalf during its first pursuit of Ohtani back in 2017.

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Ohtani, then 23 years old, was as highly-coveted as they came back then. Even then, no franchise valued him more than the Dodgers. It was Los Angeles, after all, that first tried to pry him to the United States as a high schooler back in 2012.

Bryant recorded the footage as a favor to the Dodgers. It was supposed to be the crown jewel in L.A.’s push for the then-youngster. But the timing just wasn’t right; Ohtani felt he needed to play designated hitter to handle the rigors of being a two-way superstar. At the time, that option was only available in the Junior Circuit. Ohtani settled 40 minutes away at Angels Stadium. And the Dodgers kept hold of the recording, hoping that it could be of use in the future.

MORE: Why did Shohei Ohtani sign with Dodgers?

Useful it was come this winter. Three years after Bryant’s untimely passing in a helicopter crash, he appeared on the screen during a meeting between Ohtani and L.A. brass. Suffice to say, he was stunned.

“That was one of the highlights of the whole meeting,” Ohtani told ESPN through his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. “I was really surprised to see it. It was a strong and touching message.”

In the end, Ohtani swapped Angels red for Dodgers blue. There were plenty of factors at play in the end, some related to Los Angeles’ reputation for postseason success and player development, others perhaps having to do with Ohtani’s gaudy $700 million deal. Nevertheless, the Dodgers received quite the assist from Bryant.

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