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Report: LeBron James Spoke to Kobe, Magic; Decided as He Boarded Plane to Europe

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 2, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James fields questions before an NBA basketball practice, Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. The Cavaliers face the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday in Oakland. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

LeBron James' decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers came as he was preparing to take a European trip with his wife. 

Per Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins, after speaking to Kobe Bryant on the phone and a face-to-face meeting at his home with Magic Johnson on Saturday, here is what played out leading up to the big announcement:

"On Sunday afternoon, James and his wife went back to Van Nuys Airport. They were flying east again, this time to Europe, for a couple's trip. His advisors didn't know if he'd pick a team before he left for Europe or after he landed, or even after he returned. They prepared an old-fashioned press release under the letterhead of Paul's agency, Klutch Sports Group, but they weren't sure if or when they'd distribute it. James phoned Paul as he was boarding the private plane. 'Call the Lakers,' he said."

Per USA Today's Sam Amick, the driving force behind the Lakers reeling in one of their biggest free-agent acquisitions ever was Johnson:

"But according to a person with knowledge of James' thinking, it was Johnson who closed this monumental deal. The Lakers legend met with James in one of his Los Angeles homes for approximately three hours on Saturday night, when the NBA's free agency period tipped off.

"It was just Johnson, James, and (James' agent Rich) Paul, discussing everything from business to basketball to social activism. James wouldn't make his final decision then, as Paul would go on to meet with officials from the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday before that tweet heard ‘round the world."

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James is certainly the most prominent free agent signed by the Lakers since Shaquille O'Neal left the Orlando Magic in 1996. 

It wasn't until O'Neal's fourth season in Hollywood that the Lakers broke through to win a championship, their first of three straight with the Big Aristotle at center. 

James is joining a Lakers team that hasn't made the playoffs or had a winning record in five seasons. Their 35 wins last season were their most since 2012-13, leaving uncertainty about what this team is capable of doing even after signing one of the best players in NBA history. 

But Johnson was apparently able to say exactly what James needed to hear to convince him Los Angeles is the right fit for him to begin the next phase of his career.