Speaking for the first time since being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis said he's excited to play next to LeBron James and is focused on building a legacy with one of the sport's most storied franchises.
Davis spoke to Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times, highlighting his admiration of James as the pair prepare to be teammates.
"I always looked up to him. As a kid, [James] and Michael Jordan were the two guys I [admired]," Davis said. "I didn't get a chance to watch Michael Jordan live, but I watched LeBron a lot after he entered the league, and he was the guy that I looked up to."
The Lakers traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 overall pick in June's draft along with multiple future first-round picks as well as several pick swaps to the New Orleans Pelicans for Davis last month. They also dealt Moritz Wagner, Jemerrio Jones and Isaac Bonga to the Washington Wizards in the deal for salary-cap space, which they are planning to use to pursue Kawhi Leonard.
Davis waived a $4 million trade kicker to ensure the Lakers have a max-level slot for Leonard, the reigning Finals MVP. He said:
"Money comes and goes; your legacy is forever. I think how you establish yourself in the NBA and what you do on and off the court is something that people will remember forever. Obviously, our money is public and people know what we make, but at the end of the day no one cares about how much money you make.
"Anthony Davis is not going to be a great basketball player because of the amount of money he makes, it's going to be about what he achieved on the court and also off the court. That's all part of my legacy, and I think that’s way more valuable than any monetary value."
The trade to the Lakers came a little less than five months after he formally requested to be dealt by the Pelicans. The public trade request resulted in one of the most awkward final stretches in NBA history, with the Pelicans limiting Davis' minutes despite his desire to play. New Orleans wanted to bench Davis entirely to preserve his health before trading him this summer, but the NBA intervened because AD wanted to continue playing.
"It was different. Being limited to 20 to 25 minutes was definitely different. Not being able to play in the fourth quarter and close out games was a little hard for me. I wanted to go out there and help the team win. I just want to play again. I was limited last season and now I'm looking forward to getting back on the floor and being productive next year.
"My season was cut short, or at least limited in terms of playing the game that I love. I'm excited to get back to it and get back into the swing of things. I started back working out, so that helps. I want to make this season better than the last."
Davis still finished the 2018-19 season averaging 25.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 blocks per game. He missed an All-NBA team for the first time since 2016, probably in part due to the controversy.
Davis made the comments as part of the announcement that he'll be the NBA 2K20 cover athlete alongside Dwyane Wade. He'll also be starring alongside LeBron as part of the Space Jam 2 cast, already growing his presence before he even plays a game for the Lakers.
But it's clear based on his comments, Davis is ready to embrace the Los Angeles spotlight and all that comes with it. He and James will hope that Leonard sees things a similar way and makes the trek back home to L.A.