Abdul-Jabbar hails James signing as Lakers win race for NBA superstar

Abdul-Jabbar hails James signing as Lakers win race for NBA superstar

The Los Angeles Lakers are close to being “real contenders” in the NBA again after signing the world’s greatest player, LeBron James.

That is the view of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a Laker great and the competition’s highest scorer – a mark James, a four-time MVP, could one day pass.

After opting to take free agency this summer, James ensured there would be no build up of speculation about his future as he swiftly agreed a four-year, 154 million dollar (£116m) deal with one of sport’s most storied franchises.

A short statement issued by his management, Klutch Sports, was a far cry from his first departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 when a televised show called ‘The Decision’ saw him announce he was joining Miami.

Even when he returned to Cleveland in 2014, it was done via a magazine front cover with the headline: ‘I’m coming home’.

This time, the 33-year-old, who delivered on his promise to win an NBA title for his home state in 2016, was not quoted. “LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, 154 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Lakers,” Klutch said.

“I am sure the Lakernation is rejoicing,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote on Twitter. “The acquisition of LeBron James means that the Lakers are just a smidgen away from being real contenders.”

James’ second exit from the Cavaliers was far more civilised than his first, when jerseys were burned and owner Dan Gilbert penned an acrimonious letter.

This time, Gilbert issued a statement in which he wished James “nothing but the best in the years ahead” and expressed “nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform.” He added that one day, James’ number 23 will be retired by the franchise.

James posted a shot on Cleveland’s 2016 title celebrations on his Instagram story with with caption: “Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible 4 seasons. This will always be home.”

James’ final season with the Cavaliers will go down as one of the all-time great campaigns. He played in all 82 regular-season games and single-handedly took them to the NBA finals, where they were beaten, for the third time in four years, by the Golden State Warriors.

James has been to eight straight finals via the Eastern Conference and this will be the first time he has played in the West. To make it nine in a row, he and his new franchise will need to eliminate Golden State.

Season 15, The Mixtape! 👀👑🏀 @kingjames #NBAMixtape

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The Lakers are coached by former Warriors assistant Luke Walton but have been rebuilding for some time. The last of their 16 titles came in 2010 when Kobe Bryant was the game’s leading name. He welcomed James “to the family” on Twitter.

All-time Lakers great Magic Johnson is the club’s current president of basketball operations and is said to have met with James over the weekend to seal the deal. He is now expected to look to recruit San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard in a bid to gave James a supporting cast capable of tackling Golden State.

The length of James’ deal also means that, should he opt to play on at the end of it, he will be a free agent at a time when his son, LeBron Jr, could look to enter the NBA.

James was also welcomed to Los Angeles by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the LA Galaxy striker, who in typical fashion wrote: “Now LA has a God and a King! Zlatan welcomes @KingJames.”

Reaction ran into the celebrity ranks too, as Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself a former governor of California, tweeted a video in which he said: “This is so exciting.

“You are coming to the city of stars and you are going to be the biggest star of all on the court and off the court. Love it.”