Los Angeles, Monday
LeBron James has already beaten the odds just by rising from the poor son of a single teenage mother to become one of the world’s highest paid sports superstars.
Now the three-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist, ranked by Forbes magazine as the sixth-richest athlete in the world with annual income of $85.5 million (Sh8.5 billion), is taking his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Agents for the 33-year-old playmaker said Sunday that James has agreed to a four-year contract worth $154 million (Sh15.4 billion) with the Lakers, who haven’t reached the playoffs in a club record five seasons.
James was born in Akron, Ohio, moving from apartment to apartment in rough neighborhoods until his mother allowed him to move in with a prep football coach at age nine, when he became exposed to basketball.
“The odds have been against me since I was five, six years old. The odds have been stacked up against me since I was an adolescent,” James said at this year’s NBA Finals.
He added: “I can never compare the adversity I went through when I was younger compared to playing basketball. This is just basketball. This is not adversity. Not with the things I’ve been through in my life. This is fun.”
“King James” was a prized talent even before he reached the NBA. His high school games were shown on ESPN and often moved to a college gymnasium to meet ticket demands. He became the first high school player on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And his skills made him a consensus top pick for the 2003 NBA Draft.
After the Cleveland Cavaliers went a league-worst 17-65, they won the 2003 NBA Draft Lottery and selected nearby prep star James, who became NBA Rookie of the Year in 2004.
Improving each season, the Cavaliers, who hadn’t won a playoff series since 1993, rose to reach the NBA Finals in 2007, powered by James, who scored 45 points in an Eastern Conference Final showdown against Boston. The Cavs were swept by San Antonio but James showed his high-leaping, acrobatic skills were at an elite level. -AFP