Behind the scene of Lebron James signing with the Lakers

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Lebron James playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Lebron James playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers (By Keith Allison, Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0, image link: flicker, cropped derivative)

On the evening of Sunday, July 1st, right around 8:00pm Eastern Time, LeBron James changed the landscape of the NBA’s free agency period by making official one of the longest-standing rumors in the NBA: that after opting out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he would be signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.

After reportedly meeting with Lakers legend Magic Johnson the evening before, James signed a four-year, $154 million contract with Los Angeles, effectively signing a “maximum” contract available to him as a free agent.

In the end, it seems that even James – who has almost certainly cemented himself as one of the three greatest players in NBA history – was not able to singlehandedly overcome the juggernaut that is the current Golden State Warriors team as constructed. After losing to the Warriors in two straight NBA Finals, James likely found himself at a crossroads: continue playing for a Cleveland franchise that he’s previously delivered an NBA championship, or head west to further cement his legacy – on and off the court.

His departure from Cleveland ends a saga that endured for the entirety of the 2017-2018 season, as James continued to spend the year refusing to commit to the Cavaliers for the foreseeable future. James’ indecision in this matter was the source of much consternation for the Cavaliers’ franchise as well, as the organization constantly had to balance trying to acquire players who would be able to assist James in competing for NBA championships, or trying to restock the team with young talent for the future. That indecision was a significant reason why Kyrie Irving demanded a trade out of Cleveland, and why the Cavaliers were almost able to land All-Star forward Paul George from Indiana, but the deal fell apart because George wanted assurance that James would remain in Cleveland.

But James’ commitment to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-year deal, something he refused to sign with the Cavaliers, says a lot about his feelings towards Cleveland (and his uneasy relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert), and his desire to cement his career after his playing days are over. Being right in Hollywood obviously makes it easy for James to further his ambitions to be something of a media mogul, given that he’s already established roots in the industry.

Still, from a basketball perspective, James’ fit in Los Angeles is a curious one. After the Lakers struck out on acquiring All-Stars like Paul George and/or Kawhi Leonard, the team remains James, a bunch of young talent, and a hodge-podge of curious free agent acquisitions that the Lakers made. While Johnson and Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka have stated their desire to surround James with more “offensive creators,” it remains to be seen if James has enough talent around him to advance deep into the Western Conference Playoffs, let alone dethrone the Warriors.

But maybe that’s not the end game for James after all. Perhaps his stop in Los Angeles is just a bridge to a brighter post-basketball future.

 

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The King has arrived 👑 #LakeShow + @kingjames

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