(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