Four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion LeBron James’ $154-million move to the Los Angeles Lakers is the biggest transfer announcement to hit the basketball world in years.
King James’ landscape-changing decision has sent ripples across sports-savvy circles, and every sports fan in basketball-loving Philippines has something to say about this development.
Into the West
Since the Cleveland Cavaliers’ shocking loss to the Golden State Warriors in 2018 NBA Finals, James’ possible exodus from his hometown just a few years after returning had been the talk of the town.
The Lakers, the second most successful franchise in league history, emerged as his most likely destination, given their management’s recent drive to return to playoff contention.
The transfer to Los Angeles marks the first time James will suit up for a Western Conference team, having divided the first 15 seasons of his career between the Cavaliers and the Miami Heat of the Eastern Conference.
As expected, basketball-loving Filipinos have sounded off when the news broke early on Monday morning.
Fans, ballers and sportswriters alike had a say.
Miggy Chavez, vocalist of rock band Chicosci and known die-hard Laker fan and LeBron critic made his displeasure known upon learning about the news.
— miggy (@mggykills) July 2, 2018
Former collegiate standout Bobby Ray Parks Jr., now the star for Alab Pilipinas of the ASEAN Basketball League, spoke about becoming a Laker fan for the first time.
— Bobby Ray Parks Jr. (@ray1parks) July 2, 2018
Philstar.com sports editor Dino Maragay meanwhile praised James for opting to migrate to the competitive Western Conference.
Respect to LeBron for joining a heavily stacked West when he could've still taken the path of lesser resistance by staying at East. Up to the Lakers to figure out how to surround him with talent to take Golden State out.
— Dino Maragay (@dino_mars) July 2, 2018
James’ now-former team the Cavaliers had faced the Warriors in four straight championships series, from 2015 to 2018. 2015, 2017 and 2018 went to the Warriors while the Cavaliers bagged the 2016 title.
Frequently in the conversation for “The Greatest of All-Time,” the joining of forces with the Lakers is seen by fans as a last-ditch attempt to cement his place at the top of the basketball pantheon.
The 6’8 James, despite being regarded by some pundits as more athletically gifted than other all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabar, is derided for his relatively lackluster 3-5 win-loss record in the NBA finals.
The Lakers on the one hand are known as the second-most successful franchise in the history of the league, with 16 trophies. Their 31 finals appearances in the finals is a league record, but the once-storied franchise has struggled to return to championship contention since the retirement of five-time champion Kobe Bryant. Fresh new talent in recent years has revived hope in their return to power.
Both James and the Lakers are beloved brands in the Philippines. James’ jersey remained the top-selling player jersey in the country as of April 2017, according ABS-CBN News.
The Lakers on the one hand were named by NBA Philippines executive Carlo Singson as one of the five most popular franchises among Filipino audiences in 2016.
James’ journey to Los Angeles places him on the collision course in the Western Conference with Golden State, another name loved by Filipinos.