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From George Mikan to Kobe Bryant Authentic B.J.
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, superstars have been the Lakers‘ lifeblood for

LeBron James is already the biggest star of his generation, and he followed a
familiar path to Los Angeles‘ bright lights when he decided to sign with the
Lakers as a free agent.

It’s no coincidence that this glamorous, 16-time champion franchise has
consistently attracted already great players with outsized ambition. The
33-year-old James has taken on the challenge that Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal all accepted near the primes of their

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Becoming a basketball superstar is one thing, and nobody is bigger than James
after 15 prolific NBA seasons and three championships. Succeeding with the
Lakers is something different, according to many of the men who have worn this
gold jersey.

Just ask Bryant, who won two Olympic gold medals as James’ teammate while
spending his entire 20-year career with the Lakers.

”The NBA does better when the Lakers are at their highest potential,”
Bryant Lewis
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, who retired in 2016, told Fox Sports Radio on
Monday. ”And for the city of LA, it’s important for us to have that star power.
Jerry (West) was here. Elgin Baylor was here. Wilt was here. Magic was here. Cap
(Abdul-Jabbar) was here. Shaq, myself, and now let’s carry it forward again.
You’ve got LeBron here now. It’s his turn now. Hopefully he can – which he will
– take this franchise back to prominence.”

Given the Golden State Warriors‘ addition of DeMarcus Cousins to what was
already a ludicrously loaded roster, a championship seems logically out of reach
for anybody else in the NBA. James already was aware of the upstate challenge
he’ll face after losing three of the last four NBA Finals to the Warriors in

And with innumerable variables still to be settled before the regular season,
it’s impossible to predict what James will be able to accomplish with a revamped
Lakers roster.

But at least the worst half-decade in franchise history should become a bad
memory for Lakers fans, who seethed through five irrelevant seasons highlighted
mostly by Bryant’s retirement tour. The Lakers’ 35 victories last year were
their best performance during five years without a postseason game for a team
that had never missed the playoffs more than two seasons in a row.

After James announced his decision to join the Lakers on a
four-year Cheap
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, $153.3 million deal Sunday, the Lakers’
jersey sales skyrocketed and prices spiked on the secondary ticket market. Fans
gathered among the statues in Star Plaza outside Staples Center, tossing chalk
into the air in a simulation of James’ famed gesture.

Los Angeles also made a flurry of complementary moves as Johnson attempted to
assemble an immediate playoff contender on the wreckage of five playoff-free

Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson are joining along with James.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is staying, along with – for now – the young core of
Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.

Julius Randle, Isaiah Thomas and several others are out. The Lakers will
build around James Cheap
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, and they’ll continue to attempt to land Kawhi
Leonard or another superstar to team up with him over the next year.

With Randle’s departure, the Lakers will have no players left on their roster
who played with Bryant in his final game in 2016. The Lakers are steaming toward
a new future, with little tying them to the lamentable recent past.

But with the signing of a free-agent superstar, the Lakers already have
followed through on the most important part of the plan set forth 16 months ago
by Magic Johnson when he took over the club’s basketball operations. Although he
spent his entire career with LA, Magic knows the magnitude of the Lakers’

Chamberlain made this move in 1968, with the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable
Player requesting a trade from Philadelphia to join Baylor and West.

Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1975 after requesting a traimagede from Milwaukee to a
cosmopolitan city, and he went on to become the NBA’s career scoring leader
during 14 seasons with the Lakers.

O’Neal went west as a free agent in 1996, embracing the advantages of living
in Hollywood while moonlighting as an actor and rapper.

James is arguably bigger than them all Dustin
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, a multi-media star with a legitimate entertainment
production company already churning out content for the likes of NBC, the
History Channel and Starz.

When James suits up for the season opener, six of the top eight scorers in
NBA history will be Lakers.

”This is a special place,” Johnson said recently. ”We know what’s special
about this franchise. The people we choose to come here are going to know that,

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