The story behind Kawhi Leonard and Mo Bamba's special bond

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The Los Angeles Clippers have wasted no time in free agency and one of their latest signings includes big man Mohamed "Mo" Bamba.

The 26-year-old center played for the Philadelphia 76ers last season, with previous tenures with the Orlando Magic and the Lakers. Also, Bamba inspired Sheck Wes’ hit song "Mo Bamba" as the two grew up together in Harlem. 

Given Paul George’s departure, the Clippers front office has been busy finding complementary and seemingly younger pieces around All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and James Harden. 

SUGGESTED COVERAGE: The story behind Kawhi Leonard and Mo Bamba's special bond

Turns out, Mamba shares a special bond with Leonard. 

When healthy, Leonard is one of the top players in the league. The two-time NBA Finals MVP maintains his privacy by staying off social media and keeping his responses short in interviews. 

A previous report from 2018 reveals Leonard took a mentorship role for Bamba when his older brother, Sidiki Johnson, was handed a four-year prison sentence after he was convicted on robbery charges. 

The legal trouble occurred after Johnson transferred to Providence from the University of Arizona and ran into issues with both basketball programs. 

"After my brother went away for a while, Kawhi reached out to me. He just kind of stepped up and played the big brother role for me," Bamba said in a previous interview when he played for Orlando in 2018. "He’s always been a family friend for us."

Leonard and Bamba’s journeys intertwined while the two were in Texas. Bamba played at the University of Texas for a single season, where he would occasionally drive to San Antonio to see Leonard, who played for the Spurs at the time. 

The following year, Bamba was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. 

"I’m really proud of him for making it (to the NBA) and being a top-10 pick. He looks comfortable and looks like he belongs here. He’s playing with confidence, shooting the ball well and doing a good job of helping on the weak side of the defense by blocking shots. He’s doing really good," Leonard said back in 2018. 

Thankfully, it appears Johnson was able to find his way back to the game he loves and currently plays for the Salesianos Evora, based in Portugal. 

However, the family has also experienced tragedy in recent years. 

Their brother, Ibrahim Johnson, was shot and killed in Ft. Worth, Texas in 2020. Last May, the suspected gunman was found guilty of murder by a jury. Local media reported Stanley Ford, the convicted killer, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for murder, 12 years on the firearm count and five years on the tampering count. 

Through all of life's disappointments, Bamba has stayed focused on the game and now, he will become Leonard's teammate in the full-circle moment. 

Leonard is expected to arrive in Las Vegas on July 6 for USA Men’s Basketball practice in preparation for the upcoming Paris Olympics. 

As Paul George begins his new chapter with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Clippers begin a new journey of their own when the Intuit Dome opens for the upcoming season. 

Known for rarely displaying emotions, Bamba's signing will likely earn Leonard's approval.