As he settled out West over two years ago, LeBron James experienced a crash course on what it means to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
James knew what it took to win an NBA championship after winning three of them. James knew the Lakers’ storied history after idolizing Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. And he knew the city by living there in the offseason.
None of that mattered.
"What I’ve learned being a Laker is the Laker faithful don’t give a damn what you’ve done before," James said Thursday. "Until you become a Laker, you’ve got to do it with them as well. They don’t care about your resume at all until you become a Laker. Then you got to do it as a Laker. Then they respect you."
James has inched closer toward receiving more respect. With the Lakers holding a 3-1 series lead over the Miami Heat entering Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Friday, the Lakers are one win away from winning their first NBA title since 2010.
CRASH COURSE: What LeBron has learned about playing for Lakers
BY THE NUMBERS: LeBron's astounding playoffs and Finals record list
FOR MAMBA: Lakers ready for ultimate Kobe tribute in potential clincher
Though this would mark his fourth NBA championship and third with three different teams (Miami, Cleveland, LA), the Lakers’ fanbase cares more that the organization would then be tied with the hated Boston Celtics for the most NBA championships in league history (17). Though this might elicit more James-Michael Jordan comparisons, the Lakers fanbase cares more that the organization can win a title that would make Bryant proud after he and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash in January.
LeBron James is one win away from his first championship with the Lakers (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
"I don’t really think about it too much," James said of his own legacy. "The story will be told how it’s supposed to be told and written how it’s supposed to be written. But I don’t live my life thinking about legacy."
Still, James has further entrenched himself among Lakers fans.
Some of the fanbase still viewed James with skepticism because of his previous stops in Cleveland (2003-2010, 2014-2018) and Miami (2010-2014). Some Bryant fans even defaced James’ murals that were painted after the Lakers signed James as a free agent two years ago. In his first season with the Lakers, James got a modest reception when he surpassed Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. That season James also received scorn for failing to make the playoffs after missing a combined 27 games with a left groin injury.
And since then?
The Lakers acquired Anthony Davis last summer from New Orleans for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and the No. 4 pick. James has averaged a league-leading 10.2 assists while finishing second for the regular-season MVP award. James said he has an “incredible” relationship with owner Jeanie Buss and executive Linda Rambis, and has a deeper appreciation for how the late Jerry Buss oversaw the franchise winning 10 of its 16 NBA titles.
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports' Mark Medina says that a Lakers' championship would be one of the storied franchise's greatest after a year of adversity.
"She’s an unbelievable owner. I think she’s a powerful woman. I think what she believes in is an extension of her father and continuing to build this legacy of this great franchise," James said. "I’ve read so much about Dr. Buss and his teams and his success. To be playing while his daughter is an owner of the team, I think it’s pretty cool. It just adds to the legacy of this franchise."
It also adds to the legacy on how the James-Bryant dynamic evolved.
Bryant supported James before James surpassed him on the league’s all-time scoring list. James galvanized a grieving franchise and fanbase by speaking to the crowd before the Lakers’ first game following Bryant’s passing. In Game 5, the Lakers will wear “Black Mamba” City Edition jerseys in Bryant’s honor.
"Something more than just a uniform," James said. "It represents an individual who gave the franchise 20 years of his blood, sweat and tears and his dedication to his craft, both on and off the floor, to make that franchise be proud of him, and hopefully vice versa."
Safe to say the Lakers’ fanbase feels proud of James. So long as he wins one more Finals game.
Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Source: Read Full Article