LeBron James in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform was once the stuff of fan photoshops and NBA 2K’s franchise mode.1 However now it has turn out to be actuality, after the announcement Sunday night that James is signing a four-year, $153 million free-agent contract with L.A. It may be jarring at first to see James in Lakers gear this fall — however he’ll match proper in with a franchise whose future has always been determined by Corridor of Fame expertise. In reality, even among the many Lakers’ many, many historical stars, James could possibly be the perfect participant who ever suited up for the crew the primary second that he steps onto a courtroom sporting Forum blue and gold.
Of their 70-year history, the Lakers have received 16 NBA championships, one behind their archrival Boston Celtics for the most by any franchise within the league. And most of that success has been because of the crew’s immense star energy: gamers akin to Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor … the record goes on and on. If we measure participant worth using a mixture of Basketball-Reference.com’s Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares, and look again in historical past to 1963,2 Los Angeles has gotten practically 1,200 whole wins above replacement3 from gamers who both ultimately ended up within the Corridor of Fame or are likely to be there someday — a quantity that represents roughly 60 % of the crew’s whole wins above substitute over that interval. In every regard, solely the Celtics have gotten extra out of their Corridor members, and the Lakers may need surpassed even Boston if we may have additionally included the contributions of Mikan and Vern Mikkelsen (who performed earlier than we’ve a exact accounting of a participant’s minutes spent with every crew throughout a season).
|Franchise||High three HOF gamers by WAR||WAR By all HOF||HOF % of whole WAR|
|Celtics||Chook • Pierce • Parish||1,213||63%|
|Lakers||Bryant • Jabbar • Johnson||1,165||58|
|Spurs||Duncan • Robinson • Gervin||739||39|
|76ers||Barkley • Erving • Chamberlain||713||50|
|Rockets||Olajuwon • Harden • Malone||688||45|
|Thunder/Sonics||Payton • Durant • Westbrook||566||36|
|Knicks||Ewing • Frazier • Reed||563||39|
|Pistons||Lanier • Thomas • Hill||562||39|
|Jazz||Malone • Stockton • Dantley||558||41|
|Warriors||Curry • Barry • Mullin||539||39|
From 1997 by means of 2013, the Lakers had picked up double-digit WAR from Corridor of Fame gamers in 16 of 17 seasons, virtually all the time managing to pair Bryant with an all-time nice like an O’Neal or a Pau Gasol (who, maybe surprisingly, has a 93 percent Hall probability in keeping with Basketball-Reference). It was a part of a pipeline that had flowed nearly uninterrupted because the days of Mikan within the 1950s. However since 2014, Los Angeles has gotten a mere 2.four WAR from future Corridor of Famers, virtually all of it belonging to Gasol earlier than he departed for the Bulls. (Apologies to Lou Williams and Jordan Hill, however they’ll most likely need to pay to go to Springfield like the remainder of us.)
Even granting that we don’t know what the longer term will in the end maintain for youthful prospects akin to Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, the Lakers had by no means gotten fewer than 7 WAR from Corridor of Famers in any five-year span since 1963 — and that darkish interval got here from 1992 to 1996, proper after Johnson abruptly retired after contracting HIV. The franchise actually was by no means pressured to confront life with out an NBA legend for therefore lengthy till very not too long ago.
And due to James, it received’t need to anymore. Our CARMELO projection system thinks LeBron will add about 12 wins to the Lakers’ tally subsequent season. Relying on whether or not L.A. can also trade for Kawhi Leonard (or sign another star to pair with James), the crew may see its Corridor of Fame contributions be rebuilt even additional. Both manner, the Lakers’ pipeline of all-time expertise is gushing once more.
Furthermore, by the historic metrics, LeBron may immediately be the perfect participant who has ever suited up for the Lakers (by way of stats produced throughout a participant’s whole profession, not simply with the Lakers). James is the NBA’s all-time career leader in Box Plus/Minus (which might be calculated going again to 1974), simply outpacing Johnson. Amongst fellow Lakers, he trails only Mikan in Participant Effectivity Ranking (rating one slot forward of O’Neal), and he trails only Chamberlain in Win Shares per 48 minutes (coming in a single spot higher than Jabbar):
|High 10 in BPM||High 10 in PER||High 10 in WS/48|
You can also make the case that Jabbar — and perhaps additionally Chamberlain and Karl Malone, who had a cup of espresso with the Lakers when he was 40 — generated more total value of their careers than James has up to now. So his case as the best participant to ever put on a Lakers uniform shouldn’t be completely open and shut. However the truth that James may even enter the argument, a day into his tenure with one of the embellished franchises in professional sports activities historical past, is telling about his stature amongst NBA legends.
It remains to be seen if James would be the Lakers’ lone surefire future Corridor of Famer subsequent season; whether or not he will get big-name assistance will possible decide L.A.’s viability as a real risk to the Golden State Warriors’ supremacy straight away. No matter occurs, although, James has lastly restored to the Lakers the one useful resource they’ve scarcely been capable of dwell with out over time: legendary expertise.