LeBron James is, once again, no longer a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As he did in 2010, James has left Cleveland for greener pastures, though in a much quieter way than the ESPN special that aired on July 8, 2010, titled “The Decision.”
According to reports, the Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to sign James to a contract worth $154 million over four years.
James’ agency, Klutch Sports, broke the news Sunday evening:
— Klutch Sports Group (@KlutchSports) July 2, 2018
LeBron James Agrees to Contract With Los Angeles Lakers
James’ new contract will take him through the end of the 2021-22 season. According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, James can opt out after the third year of the contract, meaning that he can become a free agent again in the summer of 2021.
James finished as the runner-up for MVP last season and made the All-NBA First Team for the 11th straight year. He averaged 27.5 points per game, his highest scoring average since the 2009-10 season – James’ last season in Cleveland before he signed with the Miami Heat.
Last season, James played in all 82 regular-season games for the Cavs, who yet again went through turmoil. The team rearranged half its roster at the trade deadline, trading away several players and acquiring new role players. However, most of Cleveland’s acquisitions, including Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, were quite disappointing to end the season. Despite the Cavs making a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance – and James’ eight straight Finals, between Cleveland and Miami – James decided that it was again time for him to find a new home.
The Difference From 2010
Last time James left town – and his home state of Ohio – he was widely criticized for leaving unfinished business in Cleveland, and for broadcasting his decision in the TV special. But now, James has already delivered the championship that Cavs fans so desperately wanted – he did so in 2016. Most didn’t and simply couldn’t blame James for Cleveland’s NBA Finals losses in 2017 and this past June. James performed as well as he could – possibly as well as anyone in the history of the NBA could – but his team just wasn’t as good as the monstrous Golden State Warriors.
After the Cavs’ Game 1 overtime loss, during which J.R. Smith stunningly forgot the score and ran out the clock in a tie game with a few seconds remaining, writer Shea Serrano of The Ringer summed up how people should react to James signing elsewhere this time around:
when lebron leaves cleveland this time everybody legit should really just be like "yeah i get it lebron"
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) June 1, 2018
James’ Goals With This Choice
The consecutive losses to Golden State are precisely why James is leaving again: He wants to win more championships and chase that “ghost from Chicago” that he talks about. With this move, James must believe that L.A. is the best place to do that. With the Lakers, James will look to win more titles and take down the Warriors for the first time since they acquired Kevin Durant.
James will also seek to rest his body and let other stars do some of the heavy lifting. As mentioned above, James played in every regular-season game, along with 22 playoff games. At age 33, he led the league in minutes per game in both the regular season and post-season. For much of the playoffs, James had to do everything for the Cavs, as he scored 40 or more points in eight post-season games. He knows that his body won’t hold up forever, and if he wants to play several more seasons at a high level (and maybe even play with his eldest son someday), he’ll need to preserve his body. James can only do that with a supporting cast that can survive or even thrive without him, and he clearly thinks he has found that in Los Angeles.
While the Lakers’ current roster is made up mostly of young players, the team has been rumored to be chasing DeMarcus Cousins in free agency and Kawhi Leonard in trade talks. Though they missed out on Paul George, the Lakers must still be thrilled to add James to the fold. He’ll play in the Western Conference for the first time in his career.
A Lifestyle Move
James is also surely thinking about his family with this decision. His eldest son is going to high school in L.A. next year; James owns two homes in Los Angeles. With his media company, Uninterrupted, James may also be looking to get more involved in Hollywood and prepare for life after basketball. This move will undoubtedly change the NBA landscape for years to come.
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