Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson was so anxious to make his free-agency pitch to LeBron James he arrived an hour early for their scheduled meeting and had to wait in his car until free agency started at 9:01 p.m. PT on June 30.
Johnson said as much during an interview with Spectrum SportsNet, and ESPN.com relayed his comments:
“We had a great time of going back and forth, here we are two guys, similar. Both from the Midwest. Both grew up poor. Both love to compete. Both love to win, and I think both excel at the highest level. We connected right when I walked in the door. Just two guys that talk free to each other, and talk basketball, and that’s what I love about LeBron.”
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said he found out about James’ decision to join his team via text message from the four-time MVP’s agent, Rich Paul, before receiving a phone call from the player himself.
“He’s not looking to celebrate signing,” Pelinka said. “He’s looking to celebrate championships and he made that real clear.”
Championships would be nothing new for Los Angeles considering it has 16 hanging in the rafters at the Staples Center. However, the storied franchise has fallen on hard times since Kobe Bryant retired and hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season.
Adding a three-time champion who has been to the last eight NBA Finals as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat is an ideal way to change that, although James is still missing All-Star-caliber players like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the current iteration of the Lakers roster.
He does have a young core with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram to work with, and his own individual brilliance figures to propel the Purple and Gold to plenty of wins during the upcoming season.
After all, there’s a reason Johnson was so early to meet with the game’s best player.