Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR
When asked recently about the challenge of competing in free agency and getting superstars to come to the Los Angeles Lakers, team president Magic Johnson said he does not feel any pressure because “I’m Magic Johnson.”
Some figured at the time that maybe Magic knew something then that we all didn’t — that maybe he already had a promise from LeBron James to come to his team — that wasn’t necessarily the case, but the confidence of one of the NBA’s all-time greats to relate and draw in another great was never something we should have never took for granted.
Sunday night that belief expressed by Magic became manifest, and thanks to him, Showtime is back in L.A.
King James is coming to potentially finish his career in Lakerland on a 4 year/$154M deal. In committing to the Lakers James shows that draping himself in Purple and Gold was his best option this summer for three reasons: working with Magic, the changing of the narrative of James’ competition and the widening of options for his post-career security.
Having placed himself in the conversation already for “Greatest of All Time,” James had the power here to make a decision that impacts the NBA in every positive light that could be thought of while also creating a narrative that not many people would consider possible to happen — the greatest player in the league once again with its most glamorous franchise, just as it was before with Kobe, Shaq, Magic and Kareem.
LeBron’s legacy in Cleveland is cemented, stamped by a fulfilled promise to come back home and deliver a long-delayed championship to Northeast Ohio. In his efforts James took the Cavaliers to four straight Finals and made the small metropolis along Lake Erie a title town for the first time in 52 years, since the Cleveland Browns in 1964.
With the contracts and roster that Cleveland is now locked in on for the next couple years — not to mention the trade James himself spurred on that more than anything led the way for James to come to the Lakers — there was nothing else he could do to improve the Cavs. The time was now for James to create a new chapter, and why not do it in a city that provides maximum opportunities in every aspect of his life?
From a basketball standpoint, the Lakers have been put in one of the best positions ever due to James’ long-term commitment. After adding James officially Sunday evening, the Lakers added some defensive toughness by bringing back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and adding Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee, all on one-year deals, with the young rising core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma aboard on top of the potential to keep current restricted free agent Julius Randle.
If the Lakers do not make any more moves this off-season, the currently structured roster is not good enough to beat the Warriors or maybe even be a top three team in the Western Conference, but they are a roster that will be better talent-wise than the Cavs current roster and will be a playoff team in a very competitive and stacked Western Conference, something the Lakers have not accomplished since 2013.
Not adding another big name this year can benefit the Lakers as well because it provides the chance for these young players to develop under James, maximizing the investment the team has made under its current management to player development, and no one else can elevate their teammates in the league like James.
After this season, the summer of 2019 provides an opportunity for L.A. to improve by bringing in another max contract player in free agency, potentially Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson, or use their young assets to trade for another big time player if they choose to, better positioning themselves to be title contenders for an indefinite period.
Off the court, being under the wings of Magic will benefit James instantly, it opens him to L.A., which Magic owns in many figurative and some literal ways.
Magic’s status as a community philanthropist and business person with a plethora of businesses in the city includes his part ownership of the L.A. Dodgers and Sparks. James himself owns numerous businesses as well and as much as any current pro athlete has a secure standing in Hollywood via his production company, SpringHill Entertainment. LeBron actively and passively has long been walking on paths Magic has laid down, a more intimate working relationship between the two should allow James to expand his businesses even more and secure James’s place as a burgeoning billionaire.
James has always controlled his narrative, his legacy and developing destiny while continuously shifting the power of competition around the NBA. This historic transaction not only revives the Lakers as a tier-one legendary franchise, but it provides a chance for the man in the spotlight to make history being one of the small handful of players to win a championship on three different NBA teams and add his name to the legendary list of Lakers who added championships to an established winning culture of basketball.
With the contributions of Magic and his front office, both the futures of King James and the Lakers are bright. The Lakers are back, and the quest to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Staples Center starts now.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio