Column: Lakers’ Anthony Davis breaks silence to talk LeBron James, L.A., No. 23 and titles
Anthony Davis won’t officially become a Laker until Saturday, but he already is getting comfortable in Los Angeles, spending time with new teammate LeBron James and getting acclimated to his new home.
“The weather is amazing. The city fits me,” Davis told The Times in his first interview since being traded. “It’s more slow motion, and that’s kind of how I am. … I live out here in the summers. L.A. is one of my favorite cities. I love to live here. ”
Davis said he wouldn’t talk about the specifics of his trade from the New Orleans Pelicans until the transaction was complete and approved by the NBA, but he laughed when asked about James’ Instagram post of the two of them wearing Lakers uniforms after news of the deal broke on June 15.
“It was cool,” Davis said. “I always looked up to him. As a kid, [James] and Michael Jordan were the two guys I [admired]. I didn’t get a chance to watch Michael Jordan live, but I watched LeBron a lot after he entered the league and he was the guy that I looked up to.”
Together, Davis and James have made the Lakers favorites to win the next NBA championship, according to Las Vegas odds makers. Not only will the Lakers boast arguably two of the top five players in the league, but they also could add another superstar as a free agent. Davis agreed to waive a $4-million trade bonus in order for the Lakers to have the salary cap room to sign another star to a maximum contract.
“Money comes and goes; your legacy is forever,” Davis said. “I think how you establish yourself in the NBA and what you do on and off the court is something that people will remember forever. Obviously, our money is public and people know what we make, but at the end of the day no one cares about how much money you make.
“Anthony Davis is not going to be a great basketball player because of the amount of money he makes, it’s going to be about what he achieved on the court and also off the court. That’s all part of my legacy, and I think that’s way more valuable than any monetary value.”
Davis isn’t ready to think about his legacy with the Lakers yet, but when asked to name his all-time NBA starting five, he chose to stick with one franchise: “One would be Magic [Johnson],” Davis said. “Two would be Kobe [Bryant], three would be LeBron, I would be four, and five would probably be the most dominant player to ever play the game, Shaq [O’Neal].”
Davis agreed to be interviewed to promote the “NBA 2K20” video game. On the cover, Davis is wearing a Pelicans uniform but folding his arms around a basketball to hide the team’s logo. Davis will be wearing a Lakers uniform on the cover when the game is released Sept. 6, two months after the trade is scheduled to become official.
There had been a question about what number Davis would wear as a Laker. He has worn No. 23 most of his life, but James had that number last season with the Lakers and has worn it throughout his career, except for when he wore 6 during his four seasons with the Miami Heat. In the picture James posted on Instagram, he’s wearing 23 and Davis 21. However, James agreed to wear 6 next season, leaving 23 to Davis.
“Being from Chicago, Jordan had 23 and he was my favorite basketball player for a while,” Davis said. “But honestly, I was No. 3 and No. 30 before I was No. 23. When I got to high school as a freshman, upperclassmen already had No. 3 and 30 and they get first say, so they pulled a jersey out of a bag and threw me the jersey and said, ‘This is the jersey you’re going to wear,’ and it just happened to be 23.
“Obviously, Jordan wore it and me being younger, watching LeBron, that number just stuck with me. It was definitely exciting to know I had that number to follow Jordan and LeBron, who wore that number as well.”
Davis and James, who share the same agent, already are teaming up off the court, filming the sequel to the 1996 film “Space Jam” that starred Jordan playing alongside Bugs Bunny. James’ production company is producing it.
James is wearing No. 6 and Davis 23 in “Space Jam 2,” giving people on set a preview of what fans will see on the court next season.
“It’s been fun,” Davis said of his acting debut. “The original ‘Space Jam’ is definitely one of my favorite basketball movies of all time and I think I can say the same for a lot of basketball players. It’s definitely exciting for me to have a role in ‘Space Jam 2’ and I’m excited for everyone to see it.”
He’s also eagerly anticipating the next NBA season.
Davis was fined $50,000 in January after his agent, Rich Paul, publicly demanded a trade from New Orleans. The Lakers and Pelicans discussed a deal before the trade deadline, but those talks fizzled and neither team recovered from the public nature of the negotiations. Both teams finished with losing records and missed the playoffs. Davis had his minutes reduced and was often on the bench at the end of games, regardless of the score.
Anthony Davis cuts down the net after Kentucky defeated the Baylor 82-70 in the NCAA tournament South Regional final on March 25, 2012, in Atlanta.(Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)
Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Anthony Davis embrace after defeating Kansas 67-59in the NCAA tournament final on April 2, 2012, in New Orleans.(Charles Bertram / MCT)
Kentucky’s Anthony Davis reacts late in the second half against the Louisville Cardinals during the 2012 NCAA semifinals.(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Kentucky’s Anthony Davi is congratulated by former teammate Michael Kidd–Gilchrist after Davis was selected the No. 1 overall draft pick by the New Orleans Hornets on June, 28, 2012.(Bill Kostroun / Associated Press)
Kentucky coach John Calipari and Anthony Davis in the audience during the 2012 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre on July 11, 2012.(Jason Merritt / Getty Images)
Hornets forward Anthony Davis knocks the ball from the grasp of Lakers forward Pau Gasol during a game in 2013.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Hornets forward Anthony Davis battles Wizards forward Martell Webster for a rebound.(Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis dunks against the Clippers during a game on Nov. 11, 2017.(Scott Threlkeld / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade trade jerseys after a game Nov. 30, 2018, in Miami.(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis tries to grab a rebound from Clippers center DeAndre Jordan on March 6, 2018.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis reacts after a slam dunk during the second half of Game 3 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on May 4, 2018.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis leaves the court after talking to reporters on Feb. 1, 2019, shortly after his trade demand became public.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has the ball stripped by Lakers guard Rajon Rondo during a game in 2019.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward LeBron James and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis after a March game in New Orleans. The Lakers won 130-102.(Tyler Kaufman / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis dunks against the Lakers during a game last season.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
“It was different,” Davis said. “Being limited to 20 to 25 minutes was definitely different. Not being able to play in the fourth quarter and close out games was a little hard for me. I wanted to go out there and help the team win. I just want to play again. I was limited last season and now I’m looking forward to getting back on the floor and being productive next year.
“My season was cut short, or at least limited in terms of playing the game that I love. I’m excited to get back to it and get back into the swing of things. I started back working out, so that helps. I want to make this season better than the last.”
Despite the fervor surrounding the start of NBA free agency Sunday, Davis said he would not be monitoring social media or watching television for the latest updates.
“I don’t really get into it,” Davis said. “That’s for the media and the fans to capture. I just want to focus on basketball.”
Davis doesn’t know exactly what the Lakers will look like next season. The team has only James, Davis, Kyle Kuzma and rookie Talen Horton-Tucker under contract at the moment. But Davis’ expectations are clear as he enters his eighth season.
“My goal is to win a championship,” Davis said. “I expect to win every time I step on the court, every game. I want to win a title. That’s what it’s about — winning titles. That’s the only thing on my mind.”
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