Throughout the lead-up to LeBron James becoming a free agent, one of the major points of any argument that the Los Angeles Lakers have a good chance to sign him is that things are different this time: They’ll have the endlessly charismatic Magic Johnson in the room, and he’ll be able to sell James on taking his talents to Hollywood.
Apparently that may no longer be such a feather in the Lakers’ cap, because that particular salesmanship advantage may be rendered null and void if James isn’t even doing a pitch meeting tour of his destinations, as Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN report:
Sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.
James might meet or speak with a club official or owner at some point, but the elaborate presentations that have become common in NBA free agency over the years are unnecessary after 15 seasons in the league.
Should James become a free agent, league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.
James not needing executives to set up (often very corny) presentations to tell him why he’s so wanted is as relatable as he’s ever been, because it’s hard for those things to not just seem annoying and desperate in 99 percent of cases when the details of them inevitably leak out.
However, as stated before, not taking pitch meetings also would (seemingly) hurt the Lakers’ chances to sign him, because Magic Johnson being one of the only people on the planet who could sit down and tell James “I’ve been in your shoes and I can help you take your platform to the next level. The Lakers and their rabid fanbase are the place to do it, and here’s [X number of reasons] it helped me” has been seen as one of the team’s primary advantages this summer.
This definitely doesn’t mean that the Lakers are out. If James is truly basing this decision on his and his representatives’ knowledge of the NBA landscape, then he may already know that the Lakers are arguably his best option from a supporting cast and opportunity to add to it perspective, as well as an off-the-court opportunity one, so he might not need Johnson to sell him.
Still, if James actually is undecided on where he’ll play next season and the Lakers aren’t going to be able to get Johnson and whoever else they had in front of him, then it’s hard not to see this as bad news for the team, if only because Magic has always been sold as someone who could push this kind of superstar recruitment over the goal line.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.