Several former Lakers stars, including a few Hall of Famers, were excited to see LeBron James agree to join the team on Sunday night.
They understand James’ otherworldly talent can lift a franchise that hasn’t been in the playoffs for five consecutive years and hasn’t won an NBA championship since 2010.
James’ agency, Klutch Sports Group, said its client had agreed to a four-year, $154-million deal.
James Worthy, a Hall of Famer who won three championships with the Lakers, knows having James is exactly what the young team needed to grow.
“I think LeBron is still the King despite what Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors have done,” said Worthy, an analyst for Spectrum SportsNet. “I think he’s coming here with all his knowledge and experience. He seems to be a really good teammate, willing to accept his role as well as being patient and trying to improve players, at least from what I see.
“So he might be the perfect match. Kobe [Bryant] was tough and Kobe was like, ‘You’re either going to get this or I’m going to get you.’ And LeBron is the same way. He has the same competitiveness. I think he can get us in the playoffs for sure. I think this changes the arrow. The arrow comes a little farther forward.”
Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Lakers and is considered by many of their fans as the best to ever play in the purple and gold, tweeted his congratulations to James and the Lakers.
He saluted Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.
“Welcome to the family @LeBron James,” Bryant tweeted. “#lakers4life#striveforgreatness @Jeanie Buss @Magic Johnson and RP well done!!!”
Bryant added in an email to The Times, “YES!!!! I LOVE THIS. I bleed purple and gold. I’m happy for the Buss family, for Magic and Rob most of all!!!”
Byron Scott, who won three rings with Johnson and Worthy during the Lakers’ 1980s Showtime era, said he never shied away from believing James would play for his beloved Lakers.
“We’ve always had a star. This is where he belongs,” Scott said. “I just had a good feeling that this was the place he wanted to be. He has his production company here. He’s into the movie industry now and what better place to end your career on the basketball court and also pursue other interests that he has than here. I just thought it was the perfect match.”
Robert Horry earned three of his seven NBA titles with the Lakers playing alongside Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Horry said the Lakers are relevant with James.
“For me, I think the Lakers are back to where they want to be,” Horry said. “They want to be on top and there’s nobody better to help with that than with the King and to bring LeBron to L.A. When you have someone that dynamic, it’s easy to add pieces to that. He’s with a young crew.”
Mychal Thompson, who won back-to-back titles with the Lakers in 1987-88, said the Lakers aren’t quite title contenders yet.
But Thompson, whose son Klay plays for the champion Warriors, said having James as the centerpiece moves the Lakers in the right direction.
“It means the Lakers are back,” Thompson said. “It means every night Staples Center will be an event. Every night it will be the hottest ticket in the Western Conference with the Warriors, and the Lakers are back in title contention.
“They still have some work to do. Magic still has to fill out the roster. But this is the first step that they needed to get the Lakers back in title contention.”
Of course, at least one non-Lakers legend did not agree.
“I don’t care, but I wish him the best,” Charles Barkley said. “But him going to the Lakers won’t mean anything unless he gets some help.”