The King is headed to the West for the first time in his career
By Klyde Manansala | Photo from Instagram
After months of speculation, LeBron James has put an end to LA-Bron rumors and decided to bring his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers after agreeing to a four-year $154 million deal.
It was December last year when rumors about James joining one of the most iconic franchises in league history started to circulate. After a game between the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers, James approached Laker rookie Lonzo Ball to give a few reassuring words—with the neckpiece of his jersey covering his mouth to hide whatever he was saying from the media.
After the secret quick talk, fans and reporters began to talk about the possibility of another future Hall of Famer making his own legacy at the Staples Center.
Today, James’ official press agency, Klutch Sports, announced on Twitter that the best player of the current generation—who recently entered the free agency market—has inked a four-year contract with the Lakers, joining a young core composed of Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram.
For the second time around, James has left his hometown team after announcing that he intends to finish his career with the Cavaliers in his homecoming four years ago. In 2010, a young James joined a prime Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami Heat where he earned his first two titles—a choice that made his own city despise him.
Only this time, things are a bit different. With James’ decision to create his new path in the West, Cleveland has no reason to be upset with the King’s departure as he had already ended their 52-year title-drought in 2016.
What made that championship year sweeter was the unprecedented feat the Cavaliers was able to pull off . Down 3-1 in their match against the Golden State Warriors with a 73-9 regular season record, James, together with the help of former teammate Kyrie Irving, did the impossible and upset the Warriors to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
One season later, Irving, one of the franchise’s vital players, grew tired of being second best in Cleveland and decided to wear a new uniform in Boston, placing all responsibilities at the hands of James.
In the course of Irving’s departure, Cleveland became a one-man team despite making roster changes before and during the 2017-18 NBA season. LeBron, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, and Dwayne Wade: it sounded like a pretty dangerous line-up based in the East, but it turned out to be a bomb that was never meant to explode. Midway through the regular season, Cleveland’s front office played a chess match as they underwent a series of trades, getting Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr., George Hill, and Rodney Hood to replace the supposedly ‘bomb’ line-up.
With the arrival of four new Cavaliers, Cleveland seemed to be back on its winning track after nailing a couple of victories entering the post-season. But come the playoffs, a new problem arose for the Cavs: the inexperience of Clarkson and Nance Jr., an injured Love who was expected to carry much of the scoring load behind James, and Tristan Thompson who was a no-show in the entirety of the playoffs.
It didn’t take long before everyone realized that the King is yet on another mission. With a lineup including James last season, people were quick to predict the Cavs’ possible longest run in the playoffs—a first or second-round exit. But as usual, James (not the Cavaliers) beat the odds as he single-handedly carried his team throughout the entire playoffs, beating Indiana Pacers, top-seeded Toronto Raptors, and a relentless Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals to climb their way back up the biggest stage, facing the Golden State Warriors for the fourth straight year.
LeBron, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, and Dwyane Wade: it sounded like a pretty dangerous line-up based in the East—but it turned out to be a bomb which was never meant to explode
To top off all of LeBron’s distress with the Cavs, there was one instance in their finals showdown that may have firmed up his decision to leave his hometown: During the dying seconds of game one with the score on deadlock, JR Smith failed to call for time after grabbing an offensive board—it resulted in an overtime loss for the Cavaliers who had the chance to steal the game. James’ frustration with Smith during those moments mirrored his reaction. As he shrugged off their opening game loss, James played the next three games as calm as he ever was and with so much poise. He was giving everything he had to his city. He was focused and ready to move on—no, not from the upsetting game one loss, but from the Cleveland itself.
The Warriors did not prolong James’ struggle in carrying his team off his shoulders as they ended the series in just four games. Throughout the match-up, James clocked in the most minutes with 179 while averaging 34 points, 8.5 rebounds, and career-high 10 assists per outing. The only other player who averaged in double figures was Love with 19 points and 11.3 rebounds a game.
As the season ended, everyone knew there was a very slim chance of James re-signing with the Cavaliers. And so various teams like the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Celtics, and of course the Lakers, went full rogue on trying to win the four-time MVP to their respective franchises.
A Laker-bound James was right in front of our faces all this time ever since he made it clear to everyone that his family will play a huge role in deciding which team he’s going to play for next. LeBron has his own business and two houses in Los Angeles, which explains why the King has come to terms to play with the Lakers in the long run.
What was once a California dream for the Lakers’ franchise and fan base turned into reality after a couple of months. The Lakers, with the leadership of Magic Johnson, were able to land the biggest fish in the free-agent market after failing to secure Paul George who recently signed a new contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the remaining teams that James has yet to beat in a star-studded West.
While they successfully caught James, there is no assurance that the Lakers can compete at the Western Conference Finals against powerhouse teams like the Warriors or Rockets. But one thing’s for sure for the second youngest team in the league right now: They are not done moving pieces and building around James for the next few years. With one more solid player adding to the Lakers’ lineup, they’re going to be a real title contender in the coming seasons.