FILE PHOTO: Jan 23, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts late in the fourth quarter of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Cavaliers 124-122. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
(Reuters) – Three-time NBA champion LeBron James bid farewell to Cleveland on Sunday after agreeing to a four-year $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 33-year-old forward leaves the Cavaliers to join an iconic franchise that has won 16 NBA titles but is rebuilding after posting a losing record for five consecutive seasons.
James bid farewell to Cleveland via his Instagram account.
“Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible four seasons,” the four-time NBA most valuable player, and 14-time All Star, said on his “This will always be home.”
His agency revealed he was heading for Los Angeles.
“LeBron James, four-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA finals MVP, 14-time NBA All Star, and two-time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los
Angeles Lakers,” Klutch Sports Group said on Twitter.
The decision by the game’s best all-around player to leave his native Ohio for Los Angeles, where he has a home, will make the Lakers an instant contender in the Western Conference where the Golden State Warriors have won three of the last four NBA titles, defeating Cleveland each time.
The other title, for the 2016 season, went to the James’ led Cavaliers.
Originally signed by the Cavaliers in 2003, James, who grew up in Akron, left Cleveland in 2010 to join the Miami Heat and led them to four consecutive NBA Finals, winning in 2012 and 2013.
He returned home to the Cavaliers the next season and ended a championship drought for Cleveland with the NBA title in 2016.
But despite claiming the Eastern Conference crown for a fourth straight year, James was given a blunt reminder of how far short the Cavs are of a championship caliber team when they were swept 4-0 by the Warriors in the Finals.
Speculation about James’ future began in advance of last season with the 76ers and Rockets rumored to be suitors, while the Cavs had hoped to keep him in Cleveland.
The Knicks and Clippers were also mentioned as possible destinations but in the end James opted for Los Angeles, who are run by former Lakers great Magic Johnson.
James enjoyed perhaps his most influential season in Cleveland to carry the team to the Finals, and finished the regular season averaging 27.5 points per game, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds while playing in all 82 contests.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina/Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford
Ex-NBA star Garnett sues ex-accountant for $77 million
FILE PHOTO: Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett (21) smiles and waves to fans in the second half against the Washington Wizards at Target Center on September 24, 2016. (Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)
A wealth manager already convicted of defrauding one former NBA star also stole $77 million from Kevin Garnett, and Garnett is suing his longtime accountant and accounting firm, saying they helped it happen.
Garnett, who began and ended his NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and also played for the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets, is suing accountant Michael Wertheim and his firm, Welenken CPAs, for malpractice, saying they enabled Charles Banks IV to swindle Garnett by way of businesses in which they both held an interest.
Banks pleaded guilty in April 2017 to one count of wire fraud in swindling Tim Duncan of millions. In June 2017, Banks was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to repay Duncan $7.5 million in restitution.
Garnett’s lawsuit, which demands damages in excess of $77 million, contends Wertheim “possessed actual knowledge that Banks was helping himself to millions of dollars of Garnett’s money and did nothing about it.”
Mark Gaughan, Garnett’s attorney, would not say why the lawsuit did not target Banks as well.
According to the lawsuit, “Banks intentionally … looted Garnett of his earnings and assets for many years, including the many years that Welenken and Wertheim provided accounting services to Garnett and his business interests.”
The lawsuit was initially filed in Hennepin County District Court and moved this week to U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
In August 2017, in the wake of the resolution of Duncan’s case against Banks, Garnett’s representatives obtained records of Welenken CPAs and Wertheim, who had “provided accounting services to Banks, Garnett, and virtually all of the businesses Garnett shared with Banks.”
Further, Wertheim and Banks set spending limits and budgets for Garnett, knowing all along that Banks was taking millions of dollars of Garnett’s money for his own use, according to the filing.
In August 2013, Garnett allegedly asked Banks to wire him $40,000 of his own money, according to the lawsuit.
—Field Level Media
LeBron regrets pressuring son by naming him LeBron Jr.
Jun 22, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, son LeBron James Jr. and wife Savannah James, celebrate during the NBA championship parade in downtown Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James said he regrets putting additional pressure on his 14-year-old son by naming him LeBron James Jr.
“I still regret giving my 14-year-old my name, because of that,” James replied, adding that he first chose to name his son LeBron James Jr. — who goes by Bronny — because he lacked a father figure in his own life growing up.
“When I was younger, I didn’t have a dad,” James said. “So my whole thing was when I have a kid, not only is he gonna be a junior, I’m gonna do everything that this man didn’t do. They’re gonna experience things that I didn’t experience.
“The only thing I can do is give them the blueprint, and it’s up to them to take their own course whenever that time comes.”
James also talked about the emotions he feels while watching his sons — Bronny is a 5-foot-10 AAU star — play in basketball tournaments, something he’s done much more frequently in recent years.
“I’m sitting there and I’m watching the game, and I feel my hands just start sweating, I feel my chest start sweating,” James said. “I’m like, what is this? Ten-year-olds out here hooping, why you feeling like this? Then it went from just sitting there, then it went [to standing up], then it went from me sitting on the bench to me getting in an argument [with another parent].”
James has three children: Bronny, 11-year-old Bryce and 3-year-old Zhuri. He told reporters earlier this year that his family would play a large role in his decision about where to play moving forward, before he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
—Field Level Media
Mural of LeBron respecting Lakers greats also vandalized
FILE PHOTO: Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) looks on during a press conference after game four of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena. The Warriors won 108-97. USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles artist Gustavo Zermeno, who produced the latest mural depicting LeBron James coming to the Los Angeles Lakers, hoped a depiction of James showing respect for past Lakers greats would keep the vandals away.
Zermeno was wrong. They struck on Friday night.
The mural, at Melrose and Fairfax in Los Angeles, shows James facing a handful of Lakers legends looming over Staples Center, where Los Angeles plays its home games, and over the Great Western Forum, which the team formerly called home.
The retired Lakers shown included Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal, along with late broadcaster Chick Hearn.
Zermano said he and five friends devoted 45 hours over five days to producing the mural. On Friday night, vandals threw white paint on it.
As Zermano was working on restoring it Saturday morning, several dozen Lakers fans helped out, Zermano said, adding that he was surprised the vandalism happened in the first place.
The image, he said, was to “just show LeBron paying homage to not only past Lakers legends but the whole organization. Him showing up to the Lakers and knowing he has some big shoes to fill,” according to ESPN.
A previous mural touting James’ decision to join the Lakers earlier this month also drew the wrath of vandals.
The artwork, by Jonas Never, depicted James in a Lakers jersey with the message “King of LA” on a wall at the Baby Blues BBQ restaurant in Venice.
The mural was first hit with a spray-painting of “We Don’t Want You” and “No King,” as well as “3-6” — an apparent reference to James’ record in the NBA Finals.
James won two titles while with the Miami Heat and another upon his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he began his career in the 2003-04 season.
—Field Level Media