Out to the West he goes.
LeBron James, the National Basketball Association's four-time MVP and one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, has singed a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, ending months of speculation as to where the leagues most valuable player would choose to play out what are likely to be the final years of his record-setting career.
Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents the 33-year old superstar, announced the decision on Twitter early Monday, a move that not only puts James among the list of all-time Lakers greats including Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlin, but also marks the first time an NBA player has lead the league in playoff scoring and switched teams the following season. The Lakers will be James' third franchise, following two separate spells with the Cleveland Cavaliers and a four-year stint with the Miami Heat.
James' premier sponsor, Nike Inc. (NKE) , was marked 1% higher in pre-market trading Monday and changing hands at $78.89 each, while McDonald's Inc (MCD) shares were little-changed at $156.69 each. James also has sponsorship deals with Coca-Cola (KO) , Verizon Communications (VZ) Intel Corporation (INTC) and Dunkin' Brands Group Inc. (DNKN) .
Sportcal, the sports business consultancy, has estimated that James has earned more than $433 million from sponsors over his 13-year career to date while John Carroll University professor LeRoy Brooks estimated that James' return to Celevland in 2014 added nearly $500 million to the local economy in what he termed "The LeBron Effect" on sales linked to the 40-plus games played at Quicken Loans Area each year.
James' move to join the Lakers marks his second departure from Cleveland, after his decision to "take his talents to South Beach" in the summer of 2010 caused significant upheaval in the northeast Ohio city and trigger an emotional -- and controversial - response from team owner Dan Gilbert.
However, having delivered an NBA title for the Cavaliers in 2016, despite falling to a 3-1 deficit against the rival Golden State Warriors, who had set a league record of 73 wins that same season, and playing in all 82 games this year in leading the Cavs to another NBA finals -- James' eighth consecutive -- reaction from both Gilbert and fans appears to be far more conciliatory this time around.
"LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform," team owner Dan Gilbert said in a statement early Monday. "We look forward to the retirement of the famous #23 Cavs jersey one day down the line ..."