Magic Johnson reveals details about meeting that sealed LeBron James to the Lakers

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Celebrities and members of the NBA community welcomed LeBron James to Los Angeles after it was announced Sunday he will join the Lakers on a four-year, $154M deal.
USA TODAY Sports

When Magic Johnson walked into LeBron James’ Los Angeles area home on the night of June 30, heading in as the clock turned to 9:01 p.m. Pacific time and the NBA’s free agency gates were opened wide, he was like a high schooler going in for the final exam.

The Lakers legend had done his homework, studying game tape of James during every stage of his storied career with the hopes of understanding the evolution of his game. He was there to talk hoops with one of the few people on the planet who was on his level, this 33-year-old who wanted to know more about how this possible partnership might work. James, alongside his agent Rich Paul, was all ears. 

After all these years of failed free agency pitches before Johnson took over as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations last February, all those players who walked away unimpressed by the previous regime and unconvinced about the Lakers’ future, Johnson knew what was at stake. Per James’ request, he had come alone. 

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Less than a day later, approximately 17 hours after Johnson had aced his first real free agency test, James’ agency, Klutch Sports Group, would announce that he was leaving Cleveland for a second time to sign a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers.

“When (Lakers general manager) Rob (Pelinka) talked to his agent, Rich Paul, he wanted to talk to me one-on-one; that’s what he wanted,” Johnson explained on Friday in a conference call with reporters. “So I was happy to go and represent the Lakers, and talk basketball, talk strategy, talk winning, talk team, and talk players. All of it rolled into one.

“This guy is a basketball genius in terms of his mindset. And it was so funny, I think we both thought we were talking to ourselves when we’re looking at each other. We’re mirrors of each other when it comes to basketball mindset, championship DNA, and just playing the game the right way and also being a great teammate. That’s what it was. It was a lot of just basketball conversation. And as I told him, we want to get to the championship one day and he could be a big part of leading us back to that. That’s it.”

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