Everything changed in one night. In a move that has been speculated about for the past year, LeBron James officially declared that he will be signing a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, worth $154 million. The immediate ramifications for the league are widespread and massive, but for LeBron, it means that, for the first time since he dragged a ragtag group of Cleveland Cavaliers teammates to the NBA Finals in 2007, he won’t be under pressure to win a championship.
James has always been a player who has spoken about the desire to follow in Magic Johnson’s footsteps and become an elite businessman. Landing in L.A., where his various business ventures are housed, sets him up perfectly for that goal. LeBron-the-mogul is in full effect, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s in a position to buy the same Cavs team he’s loved so much by the time his career is over, sometime in the next decade.
Even if the Lakers land another coveted piece, such as the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, it still wouldn’t be enough to make them the favorite to get to the Finals. So, no, LeBron James isn’t going to win a title this season, and he may not have a legitimate shot for another two years, as he waits for the Warriors dynasty to break up. But he can still cement his argument for the GOAT without the championship aspirations.
This is about more than basketball, which is surprising for a player who has been singularly focused on the sport since he was in middle school.
But, ultimately, this is about more than basketball, which is surprising for a player who has been singularly focused on the sport since he was in middle school. LeBron is here to maximize his position as a capital-letter “brand.” Then, there’s also the possibility that he can play on the same NBA team as his stellar-athlete son, 13-year-old LeBron Jr., who is five years away from being eligible to play in the league, if it goes back to drafting players out of high school.
In 2010, LeBron was chastised for running to a loaded Miami Heat team to chase rings. Eight years later, he’s doing the opposite, going to a team where championships seem far-fetched—all in order to make a wholistic life improvement. For someone who has given his everything to the sport of basketball, it seems like the much-awaited “me time” under the bright Los Angeles sun is well-deserved and much overdo.