There was only one victor, though, and all that preparation paid off: So many of James's Lakers jerseys moved in just the final three hours between the announcement and midnight that the piece became one of the 10 best sales days for a jersey in Fanatics company history. 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.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James agreed to a four-year deal worth US$154 million on Sunday with the Lakers, just hours after the NBA free agency period began.
James and the Cavaliers had been beaten in 3 out of 4 NBA Finals against the Warriors since 2015.
In his four years back with his home state team, the 33-year-old Akron, Ohio native led the Cavs to four straight NBA Finals appearances. More could follow if the Lakers make a trade with the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, with the likes of Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma possibly on the table. His farewell letter from Monday, July 2 thanked James for ending the 52-year championship drought in Cleveland, and uniting "generations of Clevelanders, both living and passed" in the process.
The addition of James is expected to be a franchise-altering move for the Lakers, who won just 35 games last season and have missed the National Basketball Association playoffs in each of the past five years. With Julius Randle off to New Orleans, the Lakers' frontline now projects to have only Ivica Zubac and JaVale McGee sharing the center chores.
The Philadelphia 76ers, whose young star Ben Simmons has the same agent as James, were also in the hunt with James, hoping to build a potential triple threat alongside the Australian and Cameroon forward Joel Embiid.
As LeBron James leaves the city of Cleveland for a second time, so too will the iconic banner bearing his likeness.
That mission was accomplished when the Cavaliers won the 2016 crown with James in the starring role.