After enduring five consecutive seasons without qualifying for the NBA playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers successfully reeled in the summer’s biggest prize in free agency by signing 14-time All-Star LeBron James to a four-year, $153 million contract.
In contrast to previous offseasons when the team was often snubbed by top free agents, the Lakers emerged an appealing destination with their promising young core and a plentiful amount of cap space.
For those reasons, the Lakers were long considered overwhelming favorites to lure James away from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The three-time champion’s arrival will undoubtedly change the landscape of the NBA going forward, and further accelerate Los Angeles’ timeline of returning to championship contention.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss revealed that she was in disbelief with the news that James agreed to sign with the organization and believes it was an important step in returning to prominence, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“It was shock,” Jeanie said. “Not that I wasn’t confident going into it. For it to actually happen it was like ‘Whoa. OK. We’re back now.’”
While Buss is cautiously optimistic that the Lakers are headed back in the right direction, she won’t be satisfied until the team’s newly created expectations translate to results on the court:
“We haven’t done anything yet,” she said.
James’ presence will certainly help in that department, as he’s coming off his finest statistical season yet in addition to making eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances with the Cavaliers and Miami Heat.
The 34-year-old found his way to the Lakers eight years after late owner Jerry Buss first envisioned such a scenario. Coming off back-to-back NBA championships, he proposed securing a meeting with James despite not having the necessary salary cap space.