Photo: Harry How (Getty)
You may have heard the news. LeBron James is leaving Cleveland, again. He’s now a Los Angeles Laker. I predicted this move a year ago — saw it coming. What I didn’t see was the price tag.
Four years. $153.3 million. That’s what it took for Magic Johnson to sign the best basketball player of our generation. That’s over $740,000 a week. But it’s worth every penny.
LeBron in a purple and gold jersey is a priceless asset.
The Lakers have officially gone from an eleventh place team that missed the playoffs to selling tickets faster than the newest Star Wars. The Lakers are now an NBA Finals contender overnight.
Only the Warriors have better odds to win the title now that the Lakers have Lebron. The Cavs? 500 to one.
So what happens now?
Let’s start with LeBron, the celebrity.
He’s now the must-see GOAT in the city that worships fame. When you look at who congratulated the four-time MVP on Twitter, you understand quickly the Lakers’ team-value is about to skyrocket yet again.
Welcome to the Lake Show @KingJames! Rock that purple and gold – looking forward to a great season.
— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) July 2, 2018
— Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) July 2, 2018
— Ludacris (@Ludacris) July 2, 2018
@KingJames welcome to LA! Friday is sunset rosé, laser facials on Monday. the rest of the week is running into people you don’t like at soho house
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 2, 2018
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) July 2, 2018
— John Stamos (@JohnStamos) July 2, 2018
— James Corden (@JKCorden) July 2, 2018
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) July 2, 2018
You know it’s big when you get a video from the Governator.
If you want more proof the Lakers franchise is spending their money wisely, look at this:
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 2, 2018
But LeBron could have gone anywhere. Just about any team would have made the cap space to pay him.
So why did LeBron choose Los Angeles?
Here are just a few reasons:
- LeBron has a very successful production company and will no doubt continue his work in the entertainment realm.
- He already has a home in L.A.
- His son will be in high school next year and will now be in a city where there are top-ranked high school basketball programs.
- The move makes sense for not just LeBron, but his family. And they’re all about to get even more rich. Ending his career as a Laker means that LeBron isn’t just a basketball player, he’s a mogul.
So what about the most obvious question of all?
What are realistic expectations for a LeBron-led Lakers team?
How soon can LeBron bring the Lakers a championship, if at all? He’s 33-years-old and is joining the same conference as the Golden State Warriors (who’ve won three of last four NBA titles) and the Houston Rockets (who had the best record last year). And they didn’t land Chris Paul or Paul George in free-agency, as many believed LeBron would have hoped.
LeBron will bring the Lakers their first NBA title since Kobe. And he’ll do it within the next three years.
It’s no secret the Lakers will attempt to make a trade for Kawhi Leonard. They will have to make salary cap room, trading off some of their young assets, but whether it happens this season or after his contract expires in San Antonio next year, it will happen.
Leonard is arguably a top-three NBA player who is a two-time NBA Defensive Player-Of-The-Year. Having him with LeBron immediately makes them a threat to Golden State. LeBron will get another key piece, say Jimmy Butler, if one of the young stars doesn’t blossom within the next year.
So, to recap …
- Expect the Lakers to be the hottest selling ticket that doesn’t rhyme with “duper roll.”
- Expect them to de-throne the Warriors after acquiring another star player.
- And, expect to see LeBron — the Hollywood star — more than ever before.
LeBron already has titles. Now that he’s in L.A., he’s going for so much more.
Josh Helmuth is a sports reporter in St. Louis who contributes to Mandatory.