LeBron James Says Farewell To Cleveland, Signs With LA Lakers

LeBron James speaking to reporters after the NBA Finals in June [Mark Urycki / ideastream]

LeBron James has decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers again – and this time he’s taking his talents to… Los Angeles.

In a brief statement Sunday evening, Klutch Sports Group, James’ management company, announced that he has signed a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The announcement caps months of speculation about where James might play the next phase of his career, and unites arguably the best player of his generation with one of the National Basketball Association’s iconic franchises.

Lebron James' message to northeast OhioJames, who for the first time in his career with be playing in the NBA’s Western Conference, thanked Northeast Ohio and its fans in an Instagram post. In text over a photo from the Cavs' 2016 NBA championship victory parade, James said:

"Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible 4 seasons. This will always be home."

A native of Akron, James, 33, played two stints with the Cavaliers. He initially joined the team right out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School as the top pick in the 2003 draft. By 2007, he had led the Cavaliers to the team’s first-ever NBA Finals. But Cleveland was swept by the San Antonio Spurs and after failing multiple times to return to the championship round, James left Cleveland as a free agent in the summer of 2010, signing with the Miami Heat.

There he joined fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and together they went to the finals four straight years, winning twice.

Then in 2014, James stunned basketball fans by leaving Miami to return to Cleveland. He led the Cavs to the Eastern Conference title each of the next four seasons. Each time they played the Golden State Warriors in the league finals, and three times the Cavs came up short, despite herculean efforts by James.

When they won in 2016, the Cavs not only overcame a 3-1 deficit, they became the first Cleveland team to win a major professional championship since 1964. The parade celebrating that victory drew more than one million people to downtown Cleveland.

By then the disappointment and anger that marked James' departure in 2010 had been transformed into a potent combination of gratitude and awe as Cavalier fans realized that were they were witnessing one of the all-time greats at the peak of his athletic power -- and the fact that he was a native son returned home made it all the sweeter.

A written statement from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert credited James with "delivering the long elusive championship that many thought they would never see.

"None of this would have happened if LeBron James did not agree to come back home and lead the Cavaliers to the promised land. The entire Cavaliers franchise thanks LeBron for that precious moment," the statement read.

Gilbert wished James and his family "nothing but the best," adding that the team would retire James' #23 jersey "one day down the line..."

James has been an NBA All-Star in 14 of his 15 seasons. In addition, he has won four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, three NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, three All-Star Game MVP awards, an NBA scoring title, and is the all-time NBA playoffs scoring leader.

During his four years since returning to Cleveland, James averaged 26 points with 7.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists. His career scoring average is 27.2 points a game.

In addition, his LeBron James Family Foundation has invested heavily in the lives of at-risk youngsters in his hometown of Akron. Among its many initiatives is a charter school that is set to open later this month.

In Los Angeles, James will become the latest in a long line of Laker superstars that stretches back to the earliest days of the NBA when the team was in Minneapolis (hence its name) and center George Mikan was the game's best big man. Since the franchise moved west in 1960, its stars have included Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers have won 16 NBA titles, the last in 2010. The team has struggled most seasons since, and the Warriors have emerged as the dominant team in the Western Conference and the NBA.

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