Basketballer LeBron James has signed a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, his management announced late Sunday.
The move ends months of speculation over the future of the fourteen-time NBA All Star, who will now leave his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the second time.
The Lakers contract will see the 33-year-old paid 154 million dollars, Klutch Sports Group said in a statement.
James won a NBA title with Cleveland in 2016, but had generated buzz he would leave Ohio after losing consecutive finals’ series to the Golden State Warriors in the last two seasons.
After the Cavaliers lost the series last month in just four games, James would not be drawn on his future.
“I have no idea at this point,” he told reporters. “I still want to be in championship mode – I think I’ve shown this year why I will still continue to be in championship mode.”
The hometown hero began his career with the Cavaliers, signing for the side fresh from high school as the number one pick in the 2003 draft.
He played seven seasons before earning fans’ ire when he signed with the Miami Heat in 2010, forming what was dubbed the “Big Three” with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
During four seasons at South Beach, James and co won two championships before the Ohio native decided to return home to help the Cavaliers win a title. The win at the end of the 2015-2016 season marked the city of Cleveland’s first professional sports title in 52 years.
Before signing with the Lakers, James was also linked to the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets. But the fact that the father-of-three already owns two homes in Los Angeles was thought to be in the Lakers favour.
“The one thing that I’ve always done is consider my family, understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age,” James said last month. “They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago.”
Another factor pundits considered behind James’ move west was the opportunity to link up with a young roster, including 2017’s number-two draft pick Lonzo Ball and Germany’s Isaac Bonga, which could ensure he wouldn’t have to carry the team like he did in Cleveland.
The Lakers may also have sweetened the deal by having room under their salary cap to sign another maximum-salary free agent, rumoured to be the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard.
“As trade talks have unfolded, Kawhi Leonard’s focus is unchanged: He wants to be a Laker,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted after James’ move to California was announced.