We already knew this was in the works after word leaked out yesterday, but the Lakers just made things official. The team announced in a press release on Thursday that NBA Finals MVP LeBron James has signed an extension with the team. The team did not disclose the length or amount of money on the contract, but it is reportedly a two-year, $85 million extension.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is (understandably) excited about this news, as it’s the first player the Lakers have signed that he’s made a comment on in the statement announcing the move this entire offseason:
“LeBron James is a transcendent basketball player, and human being,” said Pelinka. “LeBron put his trust in the Lakers in 2018, and now this contract extension paves the way for LeBron to further solidify his legacy as an all-time Lakers great. We could not be more honored by this commitment.”
James appeared in 67 games (all starts) last season, averaging 25.3 points (49.3 FG%), a career-best and league-leading 10.2 assists, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 34.6 minutes per game. One of six players in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 assists in a single season, James earned a league-record 13th All-NBA First Team selection, while being selected as an NBA All-Star for the 16th time in his career. Additionally, he moved to third on the league’s all-time points list and eighth on the all-time assists list, while becoming the first player to record a triple-double against all 30 current NBA franchises.
The NBA’s all-time leader in playoff wins, James started in all 21 of the Lakers postseason games last season, recording 27.6 points (.560 FG%), 10.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.2 steals en route to his fourth NBA Finals MVP award. He became the first player to win Finals MVP with three different franchises and joined Michael Jordan as the only players to be named Finals MVP and regular season MVP on four separate occasions.
As Pelinka mentions, James coming aboard in 2018 singularly altered the trajectory of this franchise. Yes, Pelinka, Jeanie Buss (and to some degree, Magic Johnson) laid the groundwork for the Lakers to become a franchise that was appealing enough to land James because no, despite what your least favorite bloggers on NBA Twitter will tell you, it was not “jUsT mOvIeS aNd WeAtHeR” that led him here. Still, the Lakers would not be where they are without James’ commitment. Not even close.
In the Lakers, James had a franchise that was a true partner, not an ownership group to try and leverage or fight with, and James used the promise of that influence and partnership as a lure for Anthony Davis. Together, they could run this team, and they’ve rewarded the Lakers for working with them with one title in one try together. Now they’re rewarding them again with dual commitments to the team becoming official within minutes of one another.
That’s the trust and commitment Pelinka is referring to, qualities that are exemplified by this decision. James has not signed an extension since his rookie contract with the Cavaliers. During his second stint in Cleveland, he only signed short-term deals. His first contract with the Lakers was longer than any deal he signed with the Cavs, and now he’s seen enough to know he wants to be here even longer. This franchise makes its stars feel taken care of and like true partners, and James and Davis both signing long-term deals is an endorsement of this ownership group and front office’s approach, and a signal to the next generation of stars about what team they should go to if they really want to win.
But those next free agent coups are a concern for another day. For now, with James and Anthony Davis in uniform through at least 2023, the Lakers have their stars. The future has rarely looked brighter in Los Angeles than it does right now, and much of that is a credit to James, and what he’s helped the Lakers build.