LeBron James signed a 4-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers over the weekend. Not only is this decision major news in the NBA, it’s great for gossip and potentially great for LeBron James’s future as a power player in Hollywood. It was all gossip leading up to the announcement of the $154 million contract, which came in the form of a press release by LeBron's sports management agency, Klutch Sports.
LeBron has gotten very good at this game. While the speculation was rampant about where LeBron would land, this revelation – smartly delivered by his own agency—was low key compared to eight years ago when LeBron held a primetime TV special to announce he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team of his hometown, for the Miami Heat. “The Decision” was a spectacle. If you don’t remember how big of a deal it was, The Ringer revisited the hysteria surrounding LeBron’s 2010 “The Decision”:
The Decision was big enough to be seen as a national crisis, like health care or the war in Afghanistan.
That’s only slightly an exaggeration. Then, in 2014, a similarly flashy announcement was made when LeBron decided to return to the Cavs with an emotional explanation in Sports Illustrated. When LeBron moves teams, it’s an event. He is extra as f-ck.
Now, the rollout of LeBron’s 2018 ‘decision’ could be an episode of Show Your Work. It was finally subtle and openly strategic, considering LeBron’s production company, SpringHill Entertainment is based in LA. I’ll come back to that. About a month ago, it leaked that his 13-year-old son LeBron Jr. had all but been enrolled in a school in LA. At the time, my brother Sam and I got into a fight about the leak because I was SURE it was intentional. I thought if we knew about his son’s school in LA, it’s because LeBron wanted us to know. From there, the whispers of LeBron as a Laker only got louder. So, over the weekend when the official announcement dropped, it was almost expected. There was no shock and outrage. Partly because of the low-key rollout, there’s been little backlash. To my knowledge, there have been no ceremonial jersey burnings this time around.
It’s a different league now. Super teams are the norm and LeBron’s defeat to the league’s current reigning super team was a predictor that his days in Cleveland were over. It was inevitable that LeBron would go seek out his own super team with, you know, 100 percent less Tristan Thompson. Everyone knew this was coming. Plus, LeBron James’s brand has only gotten stronger in his past four years at Cleveland.
He’s emerged as a shrewd business mind and gained momentum as a producer. LeBron and his producing partner, Maverick Carter, produced Survivor’s Remorse, the Vince Carter documentary The Carter Effect and are gearing up to work with Drake again on a Netflix drama called Top Boy and Octavia Spencer on a Madam C.J. Walker series. They’ve got a bunch of other interesting projects already in production or in development, including a House Party remake and a reboot of Space Jam, with LeBron playing Michael Jordan’s role (no one asked for this but I WILL be there opening day).
In response to speculation that LeBron chose LA not for basketball but to initiate the next phase of his career, his producing partner said this to The Hollywood Reporter:
“SpringHill will thrive regardless of where LeBron plays basketball. It was built while he played in Cleveland, and he’s totally focused on his day job. But yes, now that he has made his decision on where he wants to play, I’m thrilled that I now to get to work and live in the same city as my best friend and business partner.”
That’s not exactly a denial, is it? And why should he deny that this move is great for LeBron’s producing career? Why can’t it be both? This contract with the Lakers marks the longest deal LeBron has signed since his six-year stint with the Miami Heat in 2010. Not to get too basketball nerd on you here but the Lakers aren’t exactly stacked with talent... yet. They just signed Rajon Rondo (DRAMA) and they had Lonzo Ball (also DRAMA - Lonzo’s dad LeVar and LeBron have already exchanged a few heated words) but a super team it is not. With a four-year deal, unlike the one-year contracts he was signing with the Cavs, LeBron is giving this team the time it needs to grow. This is a long-term plan. LeBron has a lot of reasons to want to be in LA. He’s not just chasing championships.
If LeBron brings a championship back to LA though, he’s a hero. His GOAT status will be uncontested. If all he does is put more celebs in the courtside seats at Staples Center and put himself in a good position for his post-NBA Hollywood career, it’s still a tactical move. We hear the stories often of how hard it is for professional athletes after retirement, mentally and sometimes financially if they aren’t smart with their money. LeBron is looking beyond basketball to his legacy and it’s not only smart, it’s badass. The NBA is tapped into pop culture more than any other sports league in the world so this transition makes sense. Maybe Kobe won’t be the only Laker to become an Academy Award winner (I am still not over this.)
Let me make this clear – I do not think LeBron is going to have a long and illustrious career as a Serious Actor. I loved LeBron in Trainwreck too but he was playing himself. It wasn’t exactly an Oscar-worthy performance. Chalk it up to solid comedy writing and decent delivery. He’ll be doing the same in Space Jam. Calm down, everyone. LeBron’s current leading role is bringing star power back to a flailing franchise. If he succeeds, he’ll make history. It almost makes me want to root for the Lakers and go against everything I believe in as a basketball fan. Almost.