LeBron James accepts 4-year deal with Lakers, his agency says

LOS ANGELES - LeBron James is taking his talents to Malibu Beach in pursuit of a fourth NBA ring, agreeing to a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, his agency announced Sunday night.

The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player could have made $50 million more by re-signing with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, but he's leaving northeast Ohio again after his Cavs were swept in the finals by the Golden State Warriors.

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James thanked Cleveland in an Instagram post that read:  “Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible 4 seasons. This will always be home” over a picture of the Cavs’ 2016 title parade

James is not expected to make any public comments in the next days, according to ESPN.

The Klutch Sports Group reported the deal Sunday night and immediately raised the hopes of Lakers fans and legends alike.

ESPN's Ramona Shelbourne reported that James made up his mind to go to the Lakers at dinner with Magic Johnson at Johnson's house Saturday night. Johnson, one of the franchise's all-time greats, is now its director of basketball operations. 

Now the game’s best all-around player and biggest star will lead a young Lakers team that has been overmatched in recent years while rebuilding.

The question is, which star(s) can Johnson acquire to pair with James to make the Lakers a real title contender?

In a tweet, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar alluded to the possibility of getting recalcitrant San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, who wants to be traded to the Lakers. But prying Leonard from the Spurs, who have contract rights for next season, will take some negotiating and a cadre of the Lakers' young talent.

Paul George was thought to be a logical candidate, but he agreed to a four-year, $137 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday.

Still, James must figure he has a better chance of winning with the Lakers than with the Cavs or his other major suitors, the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers do have an outstanding core of young players, including Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram.

James has also said he wanted to choose the best city for his wife and three children - 13-year-old LeBron James Jr., 10-year-old Bryce Maximus James and 3-year-old Zhuri James. James already owns two homes in the LA area.

Los Angeles also provides James with a larger platform for his business interests and social activism.

James' deal quickly paid dividends for the Lakers with two free agents, small forward and shooting guard Lance Stephenson and center JaVale McGee, agreeing to sign, according to ESPN.  Stephenson played one college season at the University of Cincinnati (2009-10) before turning pro.  

King James, who will be 34 in December, has won three rings - one with the Cavs and two with the Miami Heat. He is coming off one of his best seasons, with averages of 27.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game.

It will be the first time James will play in the Western Conference, where he'll run head-first into the Warriors, the team that has stymied him in three of the last four NBA Finals.

On Friday, James opted out of a one-year contract extension with the Cavs that would have paid him $35.6 million next season, according to the Associated Press. That made James an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could sign a longer-term deal with the Cavs or with another team.

NBA rules allowed the Cavaliers to offer James the most money, but he won't be wanting with the Lakers. His deal averages out to $38.5 million per year.

The Akron native previously said he wanted to finish his career in Ohio, and although he’s leaving home again, the Cleveland fans who burned his jersey in effigy when he took his talents to South Beach in 2010 are likely to be more forgiving after he ended the city’s 52-year sports championship drought in 2016.

James will best be remembered in Cleveland for rallying the Cavs from a 3-1 deficit in the finals to stun the Warriors. James helped seal a Game 7 win with a chase-down block of Andre Iguodala, the signature moment of a career that has shown no signs of decay.

This was the third time James hit the free agent market. In 2015 he left Miami and returned to Cleveland with a three-year deal.

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