During an appearance on the “Smartless” podcast where James was promoting his new movie, “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” LeBron James, four-time NBA champion shared his love for the city of L.A. as well as the Lakers organization. “I truly hope that I can finish my career with the Lakers,” James said.
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LeBron James: “However many years that is, if it’s four, five, six, whatever, seven. I hope I can continue to play the game. I love being in L.A., my family loves being in L.A. Being with a historical franchise like the Lakers is something … It’s like me being in “Space Jam” — I never thought it would be possible. You think about Kareem, and Magic, and Wilt, and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Kobe, Shaq and all of them. The whole list goes on.”
By comparison, Riley’s transgressions appear relatively minor. So could James and the Heat reunite? Riley said Friday in an interview on Dan Le Batard’s radio show that he would be open to the possibility if James was (h/t Peter Botte of the New York Post). “I would leave the key under the doormat if he would call me and let me know that he’s coming,” Riley said. “I would do that, but I doubt very much that key…That key is rusted now. “LeBron, look, he’s one of the greatest of all time, and for four years down here, if we want to go back and remember what those four years were like, it was four years in the Finals, four years of excitement, two world championships…It was the best time for the Heat. So I wish him nothing but the best, and if he ever wanted to come back, I’ll put a new shiny key under the mat.”
The Heat have paid close attention to the blockbuster free agency class of 2021 that could include Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George, sources said, which could keep the organization focused on keeping their salary books as clean as possible in the coming two seasons.
Yet to hear Draymond tell it, these Warriors have mastered the art of compartmentalizing when it comes to the Durant situation. “It’s not important,” he said of the Durant dynamic. “We’re not about to sit around and walk around, or carry something around, that happened in November.”
Tom Withers: LeBron was not aware the #Cavs will retire his jersey. Said he would not close door on coming back and playing in Cleveland.
You announced it quicker this time than you have with your free agency moves in the past. Is that reflective of the fact that you’ve kind of reached that peace and decision quickly? LeBron James: Absolutely. I’m at a point where I know what I want, what I like, and my family played a huge part in that. So no need for the dramatics of the drawn-out conclusion of things. Just get right to it.
James was leaning toward L.A. for days, and according to those outside his direct orbit, for months. But Paul rejects the commonly held explanations that James was driven either to expand his Hollywood empire or spark an overnight superteam. In the hours after his commitment, the Lakers reached agreements with guard Lance Stephenson and center JaVale McGee—not exactly Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Any hope of the Lakers building an instant rebuttal to the Warriors was dashed.
The Los Angeles Lakers have signed forward LeBron James, it was announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.
“Today is a great day for the Lakers organization and Lakers fans all over the world to welcome LeBron James, a three-time NBA Champion and four-time NBA MVP,” said Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “LeBron is special. He is the best player in the world. He loves to compete and is an awesome leader who is about winning and making sure that his teammates are successful. The Lakers players are excited to have a teammate who has been to nine NBA Finals. It’s a huge step closer to returning the Lakers to the playoffs and to the NBA Finals.”
“This is a historic moment for the Lakers, and we could not feel more grateful and honored,” Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said. “When LeBron James – a perennial NBA MVP and champion who is playing at the most astonishing levels of his career – chooses to join the Lakers, it serves as the ultimate validation for what we are building here. However, we all know that the work is not yet done. We will continue forward and do all that is necessary to achieve our shared obsession of bringing banner No. 17 to the world’s best fans – Lakers Nation.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Agent: LeBron James has signed his four-year, $153M deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Klutch Sports: Officially signed with the @Lakers @KingJames
But the Lakers are indeed attempting to chart a new course for James’ Lakers future, one that is vastly different from the style of basketball he played with the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Unlike most free agents changing teams, LeBron is arriving with the Lakers as an all-time great,” a source close to James said. “He doesn’t have pressure to prove anything. He wants some changes, and he can afford to let the process breathe.”
Unless the Lakers can acquire Kawhi Leonard in a trade, it’s likely James will be the only marquee star headed to Los Angeles this summer. He’s well aware of that, and according to one source with knowledge of his thinking, James isn’t bothered by it. He is trying to build something sustainable over the twilight of his career and he’s doing it with one of the most legendary teams in sports; it’s the equivalent to playing for the Yankees in baseball.
James clearly trusts Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka more than he ever trusted Gilbert. The four-year, $154 million deal he agreed to Sunday includes three guaranteed years. The fourth year is a player option, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. The last time he gave Cleveland a three-year commitment was 12 years ago when he was coming off his rookie deal. He even gave the Miami Heat and Pat Riley four years guaranteed in 2010. Despite his willingness to spend, James never trusted Gilbert enough to give the Cavs the same lengthy commitment.
James will eventually have to answer for insisting on multiple occasions he’d finish his career in Cleveland. But it won’t be anytime soon. He is packing again, headed to Europe this week for another vacation, multiple sources said. He returned from one tropical vacation and landed in Los Angeles just long enough to say his goodbyes to the Cavs over the phone at the start of free agency and then meet with Magic Johnson at James’ mansion Sunday night.
Harrison Faigen: Based on Kobe Bryant’s comments on the radio this morning, it sounds like his call with LeBron James on Saturday was less “recruiting” and more “welcome to L.A.” Here’s what he said their call consisted of: “Just hey, welcome to the family bro. Just making sure we get together when he gets out here, making sure his kids were good and that whole bit.”
Preorders for new Lakers LeBron James jerseys were robust enough on Sunday night to give retailer Fanatics one of its top 10 sales days in terms of NBA gear sold, a spokesman for the company told ESPN. Jerseys, with the placeholder of No. 00, went up on the site of the world’s largest seller of licensed sports jerseys at around 8:45 p.m. ET on Sunday night, roughly 40 minutes after the news broke. James will wear No. 23, the same number he wore in both of his Cleveland stops, league sources have told ESPN.
In the two weeks following the Finals, James held three meetings at home with his closest advisors, in which they attempted to peg free-agent destinations where he might be able to satisfy his family and eventually vault his nemesis. Their talks focused on the Rockets, 76ers, Lakers and Cavaliers. James instructed his agent, Rich Paul, to research those organizations and present him with feedback when he returned from a vacation in Anguilla.
On Sunday morning, James ate breakfast with his wife on the patio at A Votre Sante in Brentwood. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic candidate for governor of California, stopped at their table and asked where he was headed. James kept quiet. Maria Shriver, the former First Lady of California, also swung by and delivered her case for the Lakers. There is little doubt the club’s cache played as much a part in James’s thinking as Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. James grew up a Cowboys and a Yankees fan, but he has never suited up for an iconic institution. Even though the Rockets and Sixers are loaded in comparison to the Lakers, they did not capture the imagination in the same way.
On Sunday afternoon, James and his wife went back to Van Nuys Airport. They were flying east again, this time to Europe, for a couple’s trip. His advisors didn’t know if he’d pick a team before he left for Europe or after he landed, or even after he returned. They prepared an old-fashioned press release under the letterhead of Paul’s agency, Klutch Sports Group, but they weren’t sure if or when they’d distribute it. James phoned Paul as he was boarding the private plane. “Call the Lakers,” he said.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss deserves the assist for getting this done, as she’s the one who made the bold move in Feb. 2017 of firing her own brother, Jim Buss, and longtime general manager, Mitch Kupchak, after years of failed free agency pitches. Magic Johnson came in as an adviser and then president of basketball operations, and Rob Pelinka, the longtime agent of Kobe Bryant, became general manager. The overhaul was complete, with Buss pushing for more synergy between the front office and ownership with the hopes that it would lead to this kind of prize. But according to a person with knowledge of James’ thinking, it was Johnson who closed this monumental deal. The Lakers legend met with James in one of his Los Angeles homes for approximately three hours on Saturday night, when the NBA’s free agency period tipped off.
Dan Gilbert: Virtually anyone with roots in Northeast Ohio paused and felt the memories of the past and the utter joy that the burden of the so-called ‘curse’ was finally a thing of the past. Cleveland, Ohio was the home of a championship team for the first time since 1964. Words do not express the meaning and the feeling this accomplishment brought to the people of Northeast Ohio. None of this would have happened if LeBron James did not agree to come back home and lead the Cavaliers to the promised land. The entire Cavaliers franchise thanks LeBron for that precious moment and for all of the excitement he delivered as he led our team to four straight NBA Finals appearances.
Dan Gilbert: LeBron is a family man, first. We wish his kids, his wife Savannah, his mother Gloria, and LeBron himself nothing but the best in the years and decades ahead. LeBron’s connection to Akron, Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio will most certainly endure as his commitment to the region and his support of many important causes has been impactful to so many kids and families. LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. 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 writing was on the wall for James’s exit. The Cavaliers knew even if they didn’t know. Cleveland reportedly operated this past month as though James leaving was inevitable. It only wasn’t until a Saturday morning phone call with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that their breakup became “Facebook official,” per league sources.
Sam Amick: Lakers legend @kobebryant to @usatodaysports on his favorite franchise landing LeBron James. Enough said.
Darren Rovell: $136.6 million: What Dan Gilbert has paid LeBron for his 11 seasons in Cleveland. $154 million: What LeBron will make in his next four seasons with the Lakers.
Here is the breakdown for the LeBron James contract with the Los Angeles Lakers: $35.65M, $37.43M, $39.21M and $41M. He is not eligible for a no trade clause.
Here are three reasons why LeBron James joined the Lakers, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the high-profile nature of the deal. 1. James and his family (wife Savannah, sons LeBron Jr. and Bryce and daughter Zhuri) are excited to live in Los Angeles fulltime. He has two homes there and has spent previous offseasons there. 2. James believes the Lakers are in position – with some of the players they have now – to build a team that can contend for a championship soon. Also, James was not adamant that another All-Star, such as Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, had to join the Lakers for him to sign with the Lakers. He understands they can build and create a contender with him there.
James’ agent, Rich Paul, met with Philadelphia – another storied franchise – which worked hard Sunday to reach a deal with San Antonio to acquire Leonard and then convince James to join, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. But the Sixers never made serious traction with the Spurs. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about trade talks.
Ramona Shelburne: Some more context to the Magic-LeBron meeting Saturday night. LBJ was already strongly considering the Lakers but wanted to look Magic in the eye and see if they could find a trust before making a decision, per sources close to the situation.
Ramona Shelburne: This was a very hush-hush operation. Lakers knew they needed to give Bron space to decide and announce it as he wanted. None of us reporters could even confirm they’d been in touch whereas calls with Cavs & Sixers leaked. Says something on the discipline for all involved
The cheapest Lakers season tickets on StubHub before James’ announcement were $3,499 each. Twenty minutes after the announcement, those same seats were also the cheapest — $5,800 each. After the deal was announced, one person paid $188,781 on StubHub, including fees, for four season tickets. The seats, which are 16 rows up and one section off center, are only for regular-season games and don’t include the playoffs.
In Cleveland, ticket broker Mark Klang, of Amazing Tickets, said he anticipated that the tickets he held for next season would lose 60 percent of their value, the same thing that happened when LeBron left Cleveland the first time to go to Miami.
Ramona Shelburne: How did the Lakers close this? Magic Johnson went to one of LeBron’s houses in LA late Saturday night and met with him for several hours.
Ramona Shelburne: The Lakers had felt a sense of urgency this week to find a co-star LeBron — either PG or Kawhi. However when Magic spoke to James late Saturday, he assured them this was a long term play and his decision wouldn’t be affected by a transaction they could make under a time pressure
Kobe Bryant: Welcome to the family @LeBron James #lakers4life #striveforgreatness @Jeanie Buss @Magic Johnson and RP well done!!!
Will Guillory: Twelve of the 15 players that made an All-NBA team last year will be in the Western conference next year. That’s insane
DeMarre Carroll: I guess everybody can sign now….. since LBJ committed to the Lakers…Crazy how 1 man hold up Free Agency…😂💯💯💯
Brian Windhorst: The fourth season of LeBron’s four-year deal is a player option. It is still the longest deal he’s signed since 2010.
Terrence Ross: lol who’s mad i said Cavs of the West? Lemme hear it 🙉
Troy Daniels: Wow 🤦🏽♂️
Jeremy Lin: Whoaaaa….Lebron gone?!? Out the East too lol
Shams Charania: LeBron James’ new 4-year, $154M agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers includes an opt out in the fourth year, league sources tell Yahoo.
Bobby Marks: Cleveland with the James departure now have $110M in salary and are over the cap. The Cavaliers have use of the $8.6M room midlevel and $3.4M biannual exception but using both would push the Cavaliers into the tax. Cleveland still has bird rights on… espn.com/espn/now?nowId…
Tommy Beer: LeBron’s IG post:
Josh Lewenberg: LeBron to the Lakers, and his streak of winning the East ends at 9 straight seasons. The Conference is more wide-open than it’s been in a decade.
Adrian Wojnarowski: LeBron James has agreed to 4-year, $154M deal with Lakers, Klutch Sports says.
Shams Charania: LeBron James has agreed to a four-year, $154M deal with the Lakers.
Another option would be to waive Bayless and stretch his salary over three years. This move would allow the Sixers to immediately free up money, something they would need to do to be able to sign free-agent target LeBron James to a maximum salary of $35.63 million this coming season.
Yes, the Lakers are still favorites—but not total locks—to sign LeBron James, league sources say. For what it’s worth, some executives believe LeBron’s indecision is all theater, and he has already decided on the Lakers as his new team.
Signing Boogie Cousins could be a sweetener for LeBron. In January 2017, James called Boogie, “the best big man in our game.” LeBron’s praise of Cousins came before the New Orleans big man had suffered a major injury, but sources say he remains interested by the idea of playing with Boogie.
Sources have said that this is not an obligatory meeting with James’ representatives. The free agent is really interested in playing for the Sixers, according to the source. The forward would welcome playing alongside all-star center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, the rookie of the year. He’s also impressed with coach Brett Brown and the Sixers’ state-of-the-art facility. And by coming to Philly, James believes he would have a great chance to play in his ninth consecutive NBA Finals.
Jon Johnson: Per source, Sixers meeting with Lebron was not originally planned.
Sources says the Sixers are not out of James’ free agency hunt. Now, things could change if the Lakers are able to trade for San Antonio Spurs two-time all-star forward Kawhi Leonard. Under that scenerio, James would probably like to play alongside Leonard. However, sources have said that the Sixers are still in the hunt for trading for Leonard as well.
Sam Amick: Also, from the longest-of-longshots department: I’m told Houston will continue pursuing LeBron James until he makes a final decision. No known meeting, but – cap obstacles be darned – they have not waved the white flag on that front.
Marc Stein: Among the Sixers’ planned top selling points to LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul today: Philly believes it still has a real chance to win the Kawhi Leonard trade sweepstakes, league sources say
A high-level Philadelphia 76ers contingent is meeting with LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul, on Sunday in Los Angeles, league sources told ESPN. James isn’t expected to attend the meeting, which is the first significant chance for the 76ers to make case a free-agent case to James, league sources said. Ownership and possibly interim president of basketball operations/coach Brett Brown are expected to lead the meeting with James’ representatives, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Philadelphia is meeting with LeBron James and his reps today in Los Angeles, league sources tell ESPN.
Denver has been in contact with James’ agent, Rich Paul, and has doggedly tried to position the team as James’ best option, the source said. Paul George’s decision to re-sign with Oklahoma City has taken a potential James teammate in Los Angeles off the board, and thus far the Lakers’ talks with San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard have gained no traction.
Chris Mannix: With Jokic and Barton on board, the Denver Nuggets will turn their attention to one more free agent: LeBron James. The Nuggets have been in contact with James’s agent and will aggressively pursue a meeting.
Dave McMenamin: Cavs general manager Koby Altman spoke to both Rich Paul and LeBron James over the phone at 12:01 a.m., sources tell ESPN.
When NBA free agency officially opens at 12:01 a.m. ET Sunday, the Cleveland Cavaliers will not meet in person with LeBron James or his representatives, sources told ESPN. James’ camp and the Cavaliers’ front office have maintained a dialogue since the season ended, sources said. James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, informed the Cavs on Friday morning that the four-time MVP would not opt in to the final year of his contract; he was scheduled to make $35.6 million in 2018-19.
A league source familiar with the Cavs’ thinking told ESPN that the franchise has found it difficult to plan for its full team around James with the way he has approached his free agency, which could prompt hesitancy by free agents or trade partners to complete deals with Cleveland in the interim. Yet whatever pitfalls that might come with how James goes about his decision, the Cavs, according to the source, are still very much hoping to re-sign him.
Kevin O’Connor: DeMarcus Cousins sounds like an increasingly likely target for the Lakers on a short-term max contract now that it appears Los Angeles will lose out on Paul George, per league sources. In January 2017, LeBron James called Cousins “the best big man in our game.”
Bobby Marks: The max salary for LeBron James to stay in Cleveland is $206.79M over 5 years. Signing with a new team is 4-years $153.3M.
Ian Begley: Members of an ownership group from an NBA team ran an analysis that concluded signing LeBron James could generate approximately $65 million annually for the franchise, per sources. He’s projected to sign a contract worth $35 million for the 2018-19 season.
Five-time All-Star Kevin Love remains in the Cavaliers’ plans even if LeBron James elects to leave Cleveland for the second time when free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
But should four-time league Most Valuable Player James depart, the Cavs intend to remain competitive and believe Love can lead a talented roster of veterans and up-and-coming young players. “The plan is not to go backwards,” one source said. That strategy would seemingly rule out major moves, such as trading draftee Collin Sexton, without knowing James’ intention for next season.
Alex Kennedy: If you’re betting on LeBron James to the Lakers, you’d have to bet $5,000 just to make $100. (In other words, they think LeBron to L.A. is a done deal.)
Ramona Shelburne: ESPN producer @Jlshobar shot this of LeBron’s plane landing in LA this morning. Why is he here? Said one source, “He lives here in the summer.”
LeBron James has touched down at Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles, hours ahead of 2018 NBA free agency. While James owns property in LA, the timing of the visit coupled with the absence of a meeting scheduled with Cleveland suggests that his presence in the area could certainly be related to his next free-agent move.
Arash Markazi: LeBron James at Van Nuys Airport via @harmer805.
I will continue to say that James owes the Cavaliers nothing, and has nothing to fear about damaging his legacy, if he decides to leave Cleveland again, after delivering in 2016 the championship he promised. I also reject the notion that James will pick the Lakers only if Leonard or George, or both, will join him.
Remember: The most definitive thing we know so far about James’s free-agency leanings is his disclosure after the finals that family considerations will play a bigger role than they have before. If his family decides Los Angeles is where it wants to be full time, it’s not difficult to envision James making the leap with great belief that his presence will help Magic flank him with the requisite help eventually, if not immediately.
When NBA free agency officially opens up Sunday at 12:01 a.m. ET, the Cleveland Cavaliers will not meet in person with LeBron James or his representatives, sources told ESPN. James’ camp and the Cavs front office has been in regular dialogue since the season ended, sources said, and James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, informed the Cavs on Friday morning that the four-time MVP would not be opting in to the final year of his contract with Cleveland worth $35.6 million.
Paul, who represents several other players entering into free agency — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Nerlens Noel among them — will conduct all his business over the phone when free agency begins, sources told ESPN.
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