Los Angeles Lakers fans have been one of the most privileged fanbases in all of sports, leading to the well-known descriptor of “exceptionalism” for the franchise. LeBron James learned this first-hand when he signed with the team in the summer of 2018, quickly learning he would not receive a hero’s welcome.
Although L.A. had missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons — the longest drought in team history at the time — fans did not see James as a savior for their franchise. He was just another in a long list of stars to don the purple and gold, something he had never been accustomed to with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat.
Just two years later, after a tumultuous first season, James delivered on his original promise. That was to bring a championship back to the city of L.A., with Lakers fans proudly standing by him through the 2019-20 season.
This taught James a lesson about what Lakers exceptionalism is all about. “What I’ve learned being a Laker is that the Laker faithful don’t give a damn what you’ve done before,” James said.
“Until you become a Laker, you’ve got to do it with them as well. They don’t care about your resumé at all until you become a Laker. Then you’ve got to do it as a Laker, and then they respect you. I’ve learned that.”
With James bringing L.A. their first championship in 10 years, and the illustrious No. 17 that ties them with the Boston Celtics all-time, it’s safe to say he has more than earned the respect of Lakers fans.
Now, after defeating the Miami Heat, James’ name has been immortalized in Lakers history alongside many of the all-time greats who have played in the same uniform. His No. 23 jersey may even be hung in the rafters once James has retired.
Kobe Bryant believed James was caught off guard by expectations of Lakers fans
After James’ first season with the Lakers, one that saw them miss the postseason for the sixth straight year, late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant spoke about what may have gone wrong between James and L.A. fans.
His argument was that stars who have played elsewhere before playing in L.A. are not used to fans expecting instant results. Because of this, James was caught off guard by how Lakers fans reacted to his first season with the team.
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