Tue, Jul 03, 2018 - Page 16 News List

LeBron James joins Los Angeles Lakers in US$154m deal

AFP, LOS ANGELES

LeBron James is to join the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-year US$154 million deal, his agents said on Sunday, ending months of frenzied speculation about the NBA superstar’s next career move.

The blockbuster contract sends the 33-year-old four-time NBA Most Valuable Player to one of the league’s most iconic clubs, adding to the legacy of such legends as Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson.

James is considered a rival of retired Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan for the title of greatest player in NBA history, but he had endured frustration with the Cleveland Cavaliers, culminating in last month’s clean sweep defeat to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

James and the Cavaliers have been beaten in three out of four NBA Finals against the Warriors since 2015.

James had been linked to several franchises, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets reportedly in the running.

US media reports said the Lakers move was sealed following a meeting late on Saturday between James and the team’s president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson.

James, who has a home and production company in Los Angeles, now joins a club with money to spend and a desire to rebuild into a championship team.

The Lakers have failed to reach the playoffs for the past five seasons.

News of James’ arrival at the Lakers sparked a delighted response, with basketball legends and Hollywood celebrities lining up to welcome the move.

“Welcome to the family,” Lakers legend Kobe Bryant wrote on Twitter.

“I am sure the Lakernation is rejoicing. The acquisition of LeBron James means that the Lakers are just a smidgen away from being real contenders,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar added.

Former Hollywood action hero and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also weighed in.

“It’s so exciting that you’re coming to the city of stars,” Schwarzenegger said.

James, a two-time Olympic champion, left Cleveland before in 2010 for the Miami Heat, where he reached the NBA Finals four times, going 2-2, before departing for the Cavaliers, vowing to bring a title to Cleveland, his home region having grown up in nearby Akron.

That mission was accomplished when the Cavaliers won the 2016 crown with James in the starring role.

James informed the Cavaliers on Friday that he would not exercise his US$35.6 million contract option, snubbing a five-year US$209 million contract, but money and years of security were less a concern than being able to play for title contenders.

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