The Los Angeles Lakers’ desire to sign Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James in free agency next summer is an open secret, and according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report they might just get their wish.
Bucher reports that “league executives not only expect James to leave [the Cavaliers] but have circled his destination—the Los Angeles Lakers—for a host of reasons” including “setting up his post-playing career in TV and movie production, attempting the unique feat of leading three different teams to a championship and creating a path to an ownership stake in the Lakers.”
This is just the latest report planting James in purple and gold in 2018 during a summer absolutely stuffed with them, but on some level where there is this much smoke there almost has to be some fire, and these details are flames.
Bucher offers more reporting on those details in his piece, and let’s go through them one by one.
LeBron is enough of a megastar that doesn’t have to necessarily live in Los Angeles to set up TV and movie opportunities for himself, but it would make networking and running in the same circles with those types of executives easier, whether it’s talking to them courtside at games or in swanky Hollywood restaurants during off days.
James also keeps a home in Los Angeles, a home his wife would reportedly like to live in full time. Does he have to be on the Lakers to make that happen? No, but it would make things easier and is at least worth filing away as interesting.
As for leading three different teams to a title? Bucher reports even LeBron knows that one would be tough:
LeBron has relinquished his goal of Michael Jordan's collection of six championship rings, a league source says.
"That was once his obsession," the source says. "But even if LeBron thinks he has five good years left, he's not thinking he's going to beat Golden State four out of the next five years. I don't think he's making it about that anymore. When he said, 'I don't have anything left to prove' during the Finals, that's where that came from."
Now, “a league source” could mean anyone, from an agent to a general manager to LeBron to a reporter who is plugged into LeBron’s camp, so it’s worth taking what that anonymous person says with a heavy dose of salt.
That being said, James is a smart dude. Is it REALLY that hard to believe he understands how unstoppable the Golden State Warriors might be, no matter how much he wants to beat them? It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch, it’s just also by no means guaranteed to be 100 percent reflective of James’ line of thinking. Still, put it in the “interesting signs James might actually consider the Lakers” folder you started earlier.
Finally there’s James desiring a path to franchise ownership, something Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson would know something about, and according to Bucher, it’s knowledge he might be more than happy to pass on to James:
Some executives have speculated that offering James the same ownership opportunity is, or will be, part of their pitch to lure him to Los Angeles.
"It's all more about life after basketball than anything else," the first Eastern Conference GM says.
Amidst the current tampering allegations levied against the Lakers, it’s important to note that they can’t legally offer him ownership as part of his contract with the team, but there is almost nothing the league could do about wink-wink allusions that such an arrangement might be possible should he join the team.
So is #LeBron2LA officially a done deal? Not by any means, however, signs continue to build that it might be a real possibility for the first time, a reality only increased by the Cavaliers’ dysfunctional offseason.
Most have dismissed the idea of James on the Lakers with jokes about how bad and young the team is and has been, but that may not be LeBron’s primary concern anyway. Even if it is, is teaming up with another max player in Los Angeles more appealing than sticking with an aging (and probably overpaid by next summer) Isaiah Thomas and Kevin Love? It might be, and even if it’s close, all of the off-court signs are pointing towards it being far more advantageous for James’ interests to come to Los Angeles rather than hang in Cleveland.
There is still a year to go of all these rumors and scuttlebutt, so buckle in for a bumpy ride that could eventually lead the Lakers back to contention if it actually results in LeBron coming to L.A.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.