LeBron James didn’t make a snap decision in free agency to join the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a decision he knew was coming for years and something he’d pondered, long before he made his final decision.
The new face of the franchise said as much Sunday in a video on his own site, Uninterrupted. LeBron said playing for a franchise drenched in championship history, even though they haven’t sniffed the postseason in years, was a situation he simply could not pass up at this stage of his career.
A “dream come true,” is the way he described the move in his first public words about his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and his native northeast Ohio for Los Angeles. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com provides some context:
When LeBron James signed on the dotted line to become a member of the Lakers, he was all business, as GM Rob Pelinka shared a few weeks back.
Pelinka and Magic Johnson were able to give some insight into LeBron’s way of thinking based on their conversations with him in early July. They noted that he really liked L.A.’s young players and cap situation moving forward in addition to his connecting with Magic and respecting the franchise’s legacy. A few weeks later, on Sunday afternoon via his Uninterrupted platform, LeBron made his first public comments about his imminent donning of purple and gold.
“You look at the Lakers,” he said. “Being able to play for a historic franchise with so much history, and now being able to partner with Magic Johnson, someone I kinda like looked up to when I was younger and wanted to make no look passes like Magic, wanted to get on the break and be Showtime like Magic and then for it to all come to fruition at this point...
“I think timing is everything. For me to be in this position now, the excitement that I have to be a Laker, I’m happy to be apart of it because I believe the Lakers is a historical franchise, we all know that, but it’s a championship franchise and that’s what we’re trying to get back to. I’m happy to be a part of the culture and be a part of us getting back to that point.”
Lebron- More Than An Athlete
LeBron James on his move to the purple and gold: "This is kind of like a dream come true for me."Posted by Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, July 29, 2018
This summer marked the third time in eight years James has changed teams. After bolting from Cleveland in 2010, he returned in an emotional homecoming four years later, determined to make the Cavs champions. The 33-year-old had previously said he wanted to finish his career in Ohio, and although he's leaving again, Cavs fans are more forgiving after he ended the city's 52-year sport title drought in 2016.
Shortly after the announcement, which came in a surprising manner, James posted a three-photo tribute to Cleveland fans on his Instagram account.
''Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible four seasons,'' James wrote. ''This will always be home.''
The decision to join the Lakers was not a surprise to his innermost circle, with one person telling The Associated Press that it had been presumed for some time that he was headed to Los Angeles next season.
James is coming off one of his greatest NBA seasons, playing in all 82 regular-season games for the Cavaliers while finishing third in the NBA with 27.5 points per game and hitting career highs with 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists. He then carried Cleveland to its fourth consecutive NBA Finals, where the Cavs were swept by Golden State.
Last season, James had a league-high 2,251 total points scored and became the first player in NBA history to accumulate at least 30,000 career points, 8,000 rebounds and 8,000 assists. In addition, the 15-year NBA veteran currently holds the longest-ever double-digit scoring streak at 873 games.
The Akron, Ohio, native has been named an NBA All-Star in each of the last 14 seasons, earning First Team All-NBA honors on 12 occasions, including the last 11 consecutive seasons. The 2003-04 Rookie of the Year is a five-time First Team All-Defensive Team member, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist for Team USA (2008, ’12) and the 2016-17 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner.
The Lakers have revamped their team around James by acquiring Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson in free agency while retaining guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Los Angeles also assembled a reasonably talented young core before James' arrival with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
His stay with the Cavaliers will best be remembered for 2016, when he rallied the Cavs from a 3-1 deficit in the finals to stun the Warriors. James helped seal a Game 7 win with a chase-down block of Andre Iguodala, the signature moment of a career that has shown no signs of decay.
With the Lakers, James will be playing in the Western Conference for the first time and just down the Pacific Coast Highway from the Warriors, the team that has stymied him three times in the past four Finals.
The chance to play for one of America's most storied franchises is a new challenge for James, who prides himself on knowing the game's history. In Los Angeles, championships are the standard and he'll feel new pressure in upholding the legacies of Johnson, Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and other Lakers greats.
It's now his turn.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.