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All-Star experience in L.A. hopefully leads LeBron James to join Lakers

All-Star experience in L.A. hopefully leads LeBron James to join Lakers
LeBron James reacts after making a three-pointer late in the second half at the NBA All-Star game at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Remember this, LeBron.

Remember how you celebrated the sound of the buzzer by sticking out your arms, screaming from your gut, running across the floor, leaping into chests.

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Remember how the Staples Center crowd accompanied every light step with a roar of appreciation and admiration and … hope?

Remember your unvarnished, sweaty glee in leading your hand-picked All-Star team to a 148-145 victory over Stephen Curry's team on a chill Sunday night on Figueroa Street.

LeBron James, this is how it feels to win in Los Angeles. This is how it feels to be a star among stars. This is what happens when Hollywood embraces a superhero.

This could be you, not just on a Sunday night in the NBA All-Star game, but for entire winters in a Lakers uniform, for the final years of a career in which you are still the best player on the court, every court, every night.

The Lakers are going to have the salary cap space to bring you here as a free agent next summer, opening the doors of the entertainment capital to basketball's greatest entertainer, raising your total game to an impossibly new level, all you have to do is say yes.

After Sunday night, all you have to do is remember.

Remember what you announced to the crowd while standing at midcourt before the game.

You said, "Los Angeles is a great city, man."

Remember what you said to the media after the game in which you scored 29 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists to win your third All-Star game most-valuable-player award.

This quote is long, but you need to remember every syllable.

"I think L.A. is the perfect place to host All-Star weekend," you said. "It's one of the few cities that we have in our league that can accommodate all of this."

You added: "It's built for the stars. It's built for entertainment. It's built for cameras and bright lights, and it's a great place for it."

You concluded: "I hope everybody had a great weekend. I know I did. I know my family did."

You even excused our traffic. Seriously, our traffic. There isn't a soul in Los Angeles who doesn't love the place if they can excuse our traffic.

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"We know the traffic, we understand that," you said. "But L.A. can accommodate that."

You know where's there no gridlock here? For a potential Laker, the path to becoming a beloved legend is wide open. Kobe Bryant is gone. The last title was eight years ago. You can come here and be anything you want.

You can even earn the moniker as the greatest player ever, as evidenced by the words of public-address announcer Lawrence Tanter when he introduced Michael Jordan in the final minutes of Sunday's game.

"One of the greatest players," Tanter intoned.

The man generally recognized as the GOAT is suddenly only one of the greatest?

Tanter might have been saying that out of deference to the legends who were previously introduced, guys like Magic Johnson and Jerry West and Bill Russell. Or, hmm, maybe he was leaving room for you, big guy.

Tanter will announce your games if you come here. Jack Nicholson, who was sitting a few seats down from your bench, will be cheering you if you come here. The Laker Girls, who you saw performing with the Clipper Spirit on Sunday, will be dancing during your timeouts.

Glitz and glamour and sizzle everywhere, by folks who will appreciate what you do, and how you do it.

You were the oldest player in the game at age 33, yet, right from the start Sunday, nobody played harder, and nobody cared more.

"It had a real game feel to it," you said. "We wanted to give our beautiful fans … a show. We said we wanted to do it, and we came out and did this."

After a horrific Kevin Hart-hosted pregame show, and a syrupy Fergie national anthem that sounded like an awful love ballad, you immediately brought it all back to real basketball with an early leaping block of a DeMar DeRozan ally-oop pass, and you never slowed.

The game fell into its usual All-Star slumber, and the mostly corporate fans were library quiet until the final five minutes, but you never seemed to stop caring.

In the second quarter, you slammed a reverse dunk on a pass from Russell Westbrook. In the third quarter, you scored on a flying, juggling layup. You hit on half of your three-point attempts, missing only five of 17 shots.

"That's what he does," Joel Embiid said. "Every time he steps on the court, that's what he's going to do so it's not surprising."

You finally brought the crowd alive in the final two minutes with a three-point bomb over Embiid to tie the score, then hit a rumbling layup with 34.5 seconds left to give your team the lead for good.

Remember that ending. That's how it sounds at Lakers games for a lot longer than two minutes.

Throughout the game, you were pounding teammates' backs, screaming from the bench, questioning officials and inspiring like it was, you know, a real game.

It is no wonder the game ended with Team LeBron harassing Curry in the corner and, in this game of 244 shots, actually preventing a final shot.

"He's a coach's coach," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey, who led Team LeBron. "In the huddle, defensively, he got the guys jacked up and juiced up as far as wanting to get a stop."

Remember that stop. Remember how the fans celebrated defense. Let those cheers sink in.

And, oh yeah, remember your All-Star teammate who scored 16 points and was on the court with you for every step of the triumphant finish. This guy can also be a free agent this summer. This guy also loves Los Angeles, he even grew up here.

When the momentum of Sunday's heroics eventually propels you to join the Lakers next summer, what the heck, bring Paul George with you.

Get more of Bill Plaschke's work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke

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