After years of futility, optimism in abound for the Los Angeles Lakers, thanks to a promising young core and the signing of LeBron James. He’s the caliber of superstar that the franchise often boasted under late owner Jerry Buss.
While the Lakers have a rich history of Hall-of-Famers who have worn their jersey, Buss is responsible for creating a vision and culture that spawned the decades of success. Since his passing, the Lakers have struggled to replicate that.
They began to with the hiring of Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, and made more progress with their signing of James. And it’s James who Buss first envisioned joining the Lakers eight years ago.
At the time, they were fresh off defeating the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. It was the second of back-to-back championships, and still stands as the Lakers’ last title.
Despite not having necessary salary cap space, Buss pondered reaching out to James in free agency, per Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
Buss thought about calling James anyway. Over lunch with his sons, he mentioned the idea, offhandedly.
“It’d be good to know that guy,” his son Joey recalled him saying.
League rules allowed teams to meet with any free agent. Why not meet with James to introduce him to the Lakers’ vision? Why not sow the seeds of a future partnership?
“LeBron was always somebody that he was interested in,” Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss said.
Bus and the Lakers never met with James that summer. Former general manager Mitch Kupchak led a contingent during the summer of 2014, when they were granted a meeting, not with James but his agent Rich Paul.
It may have been more going through the motions than substance, as James signed with the Miami Heat. Considering the Lakers were coming off an abysmal season, they were never viewed as serious suitors.
The sentiment was much different heading into 2018 free agency, as many began to consider the Lakers a favorite to sign the 14-time All-Star. Sure enough, James committed to the storied franchise, after a meeting with Johnson, who has assumed the recruiting role Dr. Jerry Buss so majestically filled.
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