LeBron James agrees to 4-year, $154M deal with Lakers

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Monday, July 2, 2018
LeBron James coming to Lakers
Fans are reacting to the news that LeBron James is coming to the Los Angeles Lakers.

LOS ANGELES -- 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.

His management agency, Klutch Sports Group, announced his agreement with the Lakers in a 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.

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."

Lakers fans are excited about the signing of LeBron James.

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."

Lakers players were reacting to the news with excitement. "Y'all really thought he was gonna pass up the greatest city in the world ... #TheKingIsHere," tweeted guard Lonzo Ball.

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.

Shortly after the announcement, which came in a surprising manner, James posted a three-photo tribute to Cleveland fans on his Instagram account.

"Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible four seasons," James wrote. "This will always be home."

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.

The decision to join the Lakers was not a surprise to his innermost circle, with one person telling AP 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.

The Lakers are continuing to court other big-name free agents this summer, with the belief that they need at least one more veteran superstar to become title contenders, especially in the talent-laden West.

While Paul George elected to stay in Oklahoma City, the Lakers still have their eye on a possible trade deal with the San Antonio Spurs for Southern California native Kawhi Leonard, who has indicated he wants to play for his hometown team.

DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans is also a big free agent that the Lakers have contacted.

In other Lakers news, the team has re-signed free-agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal worth $12 million, ESPN is reporting.

The team also inked a deal with first-round draft pick center Moritz Wagner and signed Kansas guard Malik Newman to a two-way contract.

The Lakers have also signed a one-year deal worth $4.5 million with Lance Stephenson, formerly of the Indiana Pacers, ESPN is reporting. The move is an intriguing one after Stephenson became known as a nemesis and irritant of James in their many playoff battles. Among the most famous incidents is one in which Stephenson blew into James' ear in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Lakers also signed a one-year deal with Golden State Warriors backup center JaVale McGee, ESPN reported.