It was pretty easy for Shohei Ohtani to sign a $700 million deal with a perennial postseason contender in the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, there was one everlasting effect on him imparted by the late NBA great Kobe Bryant that Ohtani said was “one of the highlights” of his free agency meeting with the organization.
This is the second time Ohtani has been an MLB free agent — he was on the market back in 2017 after being posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Ohtani met with the Dodgers at that time, but ultimately decided to play for the crosstown rival Los Angeles Angels.
During that first pitch, according to ESPN, the Los Angeles Lakers legend had recorded a video as a favor to the Dodgers in an effort to get him in Dodger blue.
Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020 — but the Dodgers apparently saved the video.
So, when Ohtani visited the team earlier this month, they played it for him.
Although the two never met in person, it seems that the gesture definitely stuck with the two-way superstar.
“That was one of the highlights of the whole meeting,” Ohtani said. “I was really surprised to see it. It was a strong and touching message.”
SHOHEI OHTANI, BOBBY BONILLA, OTHER INSANE DEFERRED CONTRACTS THROUGHOUT MLB HISTORY
Bryant is arguably the best player to ever put on the iconic Lakers jersey — he’s the franchise leader in points, minutes and games played, having won five NBA titles with the team. His 33,643 points are the fourth-most ever, behind only LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Ohtani signed his $700 million deal on Monday, by far the largest in the history of North American sports. The two-time (and reigning) American League MVP has a .922 OPS and a 3.01 ERA, ranking eighth and 10th in the majors, respectively, since his career began in 2018.
Ohtani led the majors in 2023 with a .654 slugging percentage and 1.066 OPS. His .412 on-base percentage ranked second, his 44 homers ranked fourth and his .304 average ranked ninth. On the mound, he went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings. Among pitchers who threw 130 innings, Ohtani’s ERA was the ninth-lowest in the majors, and his K/9 was sixth.