Jerry West is a legend in Los Angeles. He was a 12-time All-Star, completing the task each year he was in the league. He won the 1971-72 NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, and he is currently an executive board member for the Los Angeles Clippers.
So, he knows a thing or two about LA.
The Lakers have been the subject of conversation around the NBA lately thanks to their signing of LeBron James. The former Cleveland Cavaliers star decided to decamp from his home state in order to play in the glitz and glam of Southern California. It’s a new chapter in LeBron’s career, one that might not be dominated by a Finals appearance every year.
Given the roster Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have built around LeBron so far, it’s not abundantly clear that the Lakers will be contending for championships anytime soon. Still, LA was attractive to James for several reasons outside of basketball, and rumors have propagated that his decision was always going to be the Lakers.
For his money, West says that signing LeBron wasn’t exactly difficult for Magic and Pelinka.
Via Sports Illustrated:
“All due respect to the Lakers, who handled everything well,” said West, “but, as these things go, LeBron was not a tough free-agent signing. LeBron wanted to come to L.A. and he wanted to come to the Lakers. Period. He has a family he’s thinking about. He has a home here. [Actually two homes.] He has a son [13-year-old “Bronny” Jr.] whom he wants to keep in one school in Los Angeles. He will be a celebrity out here, sure, but it’s a place where, once in a while, he can get lost, be himself. You can’t do that everywhere.
That’s a completely fair assessment about LeBron’s decision to sign in Los Angeles, particularly if we are to believe the other factors weighed so heavy in his evaluation. It seems like James wants to slowly transition away from basketball while still utilizing his cult of personality, whether that be in movies, production, or elsewhere.
James is a billion dollar athlete with Nike, and he’s making nine figures with the Lakers over the course of his current contract. It makes sense that he would want to try and branch out to continue that run of cultural importance.
West is probably right that it wasn’t difficult for the Lakers to sign LeBron. Now, the real question is whether they can put a team around James this year (or next) that at least makes the basketball portion of his time at Staples Center valuable.