LeBron James joins the Los Angeles Lakers at a not-so-storied moment in the team’s history — not exactly a low point, given the wealth of young talent but still far removed from its championship seasons of yore. Adding the world’s greatest basketball player is the best thing imaginable for this promising but overmatched group, potentially lifting it from the dregs of the NBA to, well, at least the first round of the playoffs.
Kudos to Earvin “Magic” Johnson, head of Lakers’ basketball operations, for sealing the deal with James. The signing gives renewed credibility to the Lakers’ claim that theirs is the kind of banner-hanging, star-making franchise that great athletes want to play for, in a city where they want to live.
James’ foundation has been a force in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, establishing a public primary school, endowing college scholarships and providing fellowships for teens, among many other things. It’s a testament to James’ commitment to giving disadvantaged kids in northeastern Ohio the tools to succeed. The Lakers deal won’t change the foundation’s focus, nor should it. But now that James (who owns two mansions in Brentwood) and his family will be full-time residents, perhaps he’ll expand his charitable ambitions to help improve the lives of the youths in and around his new workplace.
We won’t argue that winning more games or even a championship will boost the local economy — in a city this size, economists say, the effect of a successful sports team is negligible. The broader benefit, if there is one, is psychological: James makes the Lakers relevant again, raising the hopes of millions of Angelenos who’ve spent the last five years’ worth of NBA playoffs waiting to see how the Lakers would do in the lottery that determines which crummy teams have the best draft picks. Count us among those whose hopes have been raised. Welcome to Los Angeles, LeBron.