The Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t hold back in their successful pitch for then-free agent Shohei Ohtani — the most highly-coveted Major League Baseball free agent of this generation.

In fact, the Dodgers prepared years ahead of time.

While meeting with Ohtani this offseason, the Dodgers pulled out a special video message recorded six years ago from none other than Los Angeles icon Kobe Bryant. The message was direct and reserved for Ohtani specifically, recorded three years before Bryant’s tragic death, and one that resonated with Ohtani before signing a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million deal.

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

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There aren’t many athletes up to the legendary status of Bryant, who finished a 20-year career with five NBA titles — all with the Lakers.

Already familiar with the Los Angeles area through a six-year run with the Angels, Ohtani made it clear that winning was the biggest priority this offseason. The 29-year-old has yet to make his postseason debut despite having been the undisputed best player in MLB and winning two American League MVP awards in the past three seasons.

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Ohtani is coming off his most recent MVP-winning campaign after crushing an AL-leading 44 home runs at the plate while also recording a 3.14 ERA with a 10-5 record on the mound.

And while Ohtani leaves now-former co-star Mike Trout stranded with a hopeless Angels organization, Ohtani also joins a loaded Dodgers roster. Names like Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Walker Buehler and recently-acquired Tyler Glasnow, put Los Angeles in the frontline as favorites come the start of 2024.

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Like Bryant did for the better part of two decades, that leaves Ohtani and the Dodgers left to live up to the hype. Los Angeles hasn’t won a World Series since the COVID-19-shortened season of 2020 played in front of a nearly-empty crowd.

Featured image via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images