LA-Bron: James Agrees to 4-Year, $154M Contract With Lakers - NECN

LA-Bron: James Agrees to 4-Year, $154M Contract With Lakers

For the second time in his career, James is saying goodbye to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted the teenage sensation from Akron in 2003

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    LeBron James Is Headed to the Los Angeles Lakers

    The former 4-time MVP is headed out west for the first time in his career.

    (Published Sunday, July 1, 2018)

    LeBron James is leaving home for Hollywood and an iconic team.

    The Los Angeles Lakers have a new superstar — L.A.-Bron.

    The four-time NBA MVP announced Sunday night that he has agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Lakers, joining one of the league's most storied franchises and switching conferences to try and dethrone the Golden State Warriors and grow his own legacy.

    For the second time in his career, James is saying goodbye to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted the teenage sensation from Akron in 2003 and have to be satisfied with winning just one title in the 11 years they had him. 

    Unlike his two previous forays in free agency, James did not drag out his decision and made the announcement less than 24 hours after NBA free agency opened.

    This Summer of LeBron was barely a fling.

    As would be expected, several institutions and personalities took to social media to express their joy at the superstar's arrival in Southern California.

    His management agency, Klutch Sports Group, announced his agreement with the Lakers with a simple, short release. It was a stark contrast from eight years ago, when a poorly conceived TV special to announce his departure from Cleveland backfired and damaged James' image.

    James isn't planning any more comments and there won't be a welcoming press conference or celebration in Los Angeles, a person familiar with his plans said Sunday night on the condition of anonymity. James will make his next public comments on July 30 in Akron when he opens a public school started by his family foundation. 

    It was all different this time.

    The game's biggest star will now lead a young Lakers team — run by Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson — that has been overmatched in recent years while rebuilding. But the Lakers will instantly rise with James, a three-time champion who after being swept by the Warriors in this year's NBA Finals said he is still driven and very much in "championship mode."

    The Lakers' legacy is something that appealed to James and it wasn't long after his announcement that he heard from Kobe Bryant, who won five titles during 20 seasons with Los Angeles.

    "Welcome to the family @KingJames," Bryant said on Twitter. "#lakers4life #striveforgreatness."

    Los Angeles will also provide James with a larger platform for his business interests and social activism. He already owns two homes in Southern California and has a film production company.

    This is 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.

    But there will always be a portion of Cleveland fans disappointed that James left again and that he wouldn't give the Cavs a longer commitment. His deal with the Lakers is his longest since he signed for six years with Miami in 2010.

    James informed the Cavs on Friday that he was not exercising his $35.6 million option and becoming a free agent. While in Los Angeles following a family vacation, he spoke to Cavs general manager Koby Altman moments after free agency opened on Sunday, and it appears that was more a courtesy than a chance for Cleveland to make one last pitch. 

    Unlike eight years ago when he ripped James for leaving, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert thanked him. Gilbert opened his comments by referring to Cleveland's 2016 title as "a championship that united generations of Clevelanders, both living and passed."

    "LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal," Gilbert said in a statement. "Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform. We look forward to the retirement of the famous #23 Cavs jersey one day down the line..."

    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. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one authorized that detail be released publicly.

    James gave Cleveland something to remember in his final season. He played in all 82 regular-season games and then somehow carried a team that underwent several transformations to a fourth straight conference title and matchup against the Warriors.

    As has been the case in the past, James didn't have enough help as the Cavs were swept, dropping him to 3-6 in the NBA Finals — a record sometimes used to compare him to Michael Jordan.

    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 was appealing to 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.

    One of James' new teammates, Kyle Kuzma, took to Twitter to share a GIF of the two players embracing on the court during a game in the 2017-18 season.

    NBC4 spoke with Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, who said he found out about James' arrival after the news broke.

    "James is my favorite player," Ball said. "Just to have the opportunity to play with him is really crazy."

    Ball added, "Today, we just got the best player in the world. It doesn't get much better than that."

    Beyond Ball and Kuzma, the Lakers' organization is likely jumping for joy, as James' capture is the first major free agent signing for Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

    Johnson recently put a two-year timeline on his ability to sign top tier free agents. Less than a week later, Johnson and the Lakers secured the services of the top free agent in the market and arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

    In addition to James, the Lakers also reportedly agreed to re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a $12 million one-year contract according to ESPN. Caldwell-Pope is also part of James' Klutch Sports Group. ESPN also reported that Lance Stevenson, who is famous for blowing in James' ear during a game, also agreed to join the Lakers on Sunday.