LeBron James and Lonzo Ball

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The King Is Coming To LA

LeBron is a Laker because LeBron wants to be a Laker.

July 05, 2018 - 9:13 am
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Hey, how was your fourth? Did anything happen while I was gone? Oh, dear, something did, but I can’t quit remember. Oh, that’s right. It’s this: LeBron James is a Los Angeles Laker. Let me repeat that, because even though it was announced Sunday, it’s still mind-blowing four days later. LeBron James is a Los Angeles Laker.

And he couldn’t have made the announcement in a less dramatic way, by releasing at statement through his agency, Klutch Sports, that read: 

“LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA Finals MVP, fourteen time All-Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Bam. One sentence, 33 words, and one incredible move. And it set off one hell of a party among Laker fans. I’m guessing last night’s fireworks had a little extra juice because the King is coming to LA. Even though it seemed like it was becoming more and more likely, it was still insane when it actually happened. 

I could spend the rest of the show and the rest of this week unpacking the whole thing and what it all means, but let’s get a few things straight:

LeBron isn’t coming to Los Angeles just to launch his Hollywood enterprises. First off, he already had a foothold here, even when he lived in Ohio. And if you’re LeBron James, you don’t actually have to live in Hollywood to work in Hollywood. You think studios and executives wouldn’t take a phone call or a Skype call from LeBron James? I doubt it. 

No, LeBron is coming to the Lakers because he wants to be a Laker. And that is huge.  The best player in the game chose to be a Laker. For years, the Lakers have rolled out the purple and gold carpet for free agents and they all passed. Many of whom wouldn’t even take a meeting with the Lakers. One by one, year after year. Because for one reason or another, they didn’t want to be Lakers. They wanted to be Spurs or Rockets, just about anything other than a Laker. LA couldn’t find people to take their money.

But now LeBron wants to be a Laker and not because this is the place where he could link up with Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. Because he’s coming after it was clear that PG was staying in OKC and there’s no guarantee that Kawhi will ever come. LeBron is a Laker because LeBron wants to be a Laker. That is huge for a Laker fanbase that has felt like the last 8 years without a title were 80 years. 

It’s a big swing. When you become a Laker, you’re following in some huge footsteps. KAJ, Magic, Kobe, and now LeBron. The safer play would’ve been to stay in Cleveland where maybe they could cobble something together and he could try to barrel his way through the Eastern Conference again next year. And if he never got back to the Finals again, his reputation and legacy were secure. 

But he’s taking the big swing. And this isn’t a big, gravy-training swing. He’s not just showing up to win a title this year. Because this team isn’t winning a title this year. Hate to break it to you, Laker fans. You’re going to have to wait on that.

When you look at the roster they have right now, that’s where it gets fascinating. Because it’s LeBron and the kids. And that’s before we get to the additions of Lance, JaVale, and Rondo. Three guys who are one name guys. And generally not for the right reasons. That is going to be an insane locker room.

But if they don’t win this year, that’s fine. In fact, it’s expected. This team isn’t beating Golden State, but they and he will be fascinating to watch. And it will be fascinating to watch how it all plays out. What does next summer, when there will be a bunch of free agents available, look like? Kyrie didn’t want to play with him. Apparently Paul George didn’t. Can LeBron still recruit? Can LeBron eventually win another ring with another team? Can he win one with the Lakers?

And hell yes Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka deserve credit here. Because they would’ve received a ton of blame if they didn’t land anyone. And because they actually got it done. Jeanie Buss also deserves a ton of credit. She was the one who made the tough decision to fire her brother and Mitch Kupchak and set this in motion. Let me repeat that: she fired her damn brother. You know how hard that is? And if she doesn’t do it, it’s hard to imagine that LeBron is a Laker today.

And as always, the moment LeBron does anything, it immediately becomes a debate about his legacy. But if you’re still having that debate, I’m not sure who you’re debating. He just turned in one of the greatest seasons we’ve ever seen in the 15thyear of his career. I’m not sure what more he can do. But right now, he’s taking on something that’s far from a sure thing. He’s taking a huge risk and I couldn’t respect it more. 

You never know with LeBron, but you’d think this will be the final act of his career and the fact that it’s playing out in Los Angeles, as a Laker, is truly fascinating. It will be must-see TV. I don’t know how it will play out, but I know two things: LeBron wants to be a Laker and you want to watch him. Love him or hate him, don’t tell me you’re not watching this because you are. You know you are.