How LeBron is Impacting the Lakers

LeBron James, arguably the most dominant athlete of his era, has chosen to end his career playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron’s move to Los Angeles is expected to have more than just an impact on the court. His move may also boost the local economy.

According to a Harvard study, LeBron had a significant impact on the food and drinks industry in Cleveland and Miami. His previous impact on these two economies is a good sign of what’s ahead for Los Angeles.

The study claimed that LeBron helped increase the number of restaurants within a mile of his home stadium by 12.8 percent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, employment also went up by 23.5 percent with LeBron’s presence.

FormSwift predicted that LeBron’s move to Los Angeles would have a huge economic impact, including:

  • 2,989 new jobs
  • A 5-year neighborhood financial impact of $396,985,680
  • A  5-year state tax revenue of  $29,376,940

For context, this study was performed long before the news broke that LeBron would be signing a four-year, $153.3 million agreement with the Lakers. Also, keep in mind, the numbers are based on a 5-year stay in Los Angeles. We’ll have to wait and see if these exact predictions pan out. However, one thing is clear. The “LeBron James Effect” is real. Here’s proof of the King’s impact so far:

Television Ratings

NBA pre-season games usually suffer from low ratings. However, the “LeBron James Effect” changes that. According to SportsPro Media, nearly 2 million viewers watched the October 10, 2018 preseason game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. The clash between LeBron and the reigning champs was the most-watched preseason game ever recorded. The Lakers prevailed with a 123-113 victory over the Warriors, who were playing without Draymond Green.

Fast forward to nearly two months later, and the Lakers are still posting strong ratings. Plus, the rating bump wasn’t just between the Lakers and another big-market team. Sports Media Watch also reports that the Lakers’ recent game against the San Antonio Spurs enjoyed a 73 percent increase in viewership from last year. It’s safe to say that the “LeBron James Effect” is already shaking up the ratings. We have to wait and see if the Lakers’ upcoming Christmas Day rematch with the Warriors also breaks rating records.

On-Court Impact on the Team

As of December 9, 2018, the Lakers are fifth in the Western Conference standings, at 16-10. Based on records from Historical League Standings the Lakers were 9-15 this time last year. As expected, the Lakers are ahead in the standings with the addition of LeBron. I should also point out that the Lakers are playing over .500 even though eight out of their first eleven games were against playoff teams.

On the surface, the Lakers are doing better now that the King is in town. However, the true test comes in January and February. These months include games against young and talented teams like Boston and Philadelphia, as well as meetings with proven playoff contenders like the Houston,  Indiana, and Oklahoma City.

We know from LeBron’s championship runs with both Miami and Cleveland that the “LeBron James Effect” is only as potent as his supporting cast. For this reason, we can’t discuss his impact on the Lakers without examining how his teammates are progressing.

  • Brandon Ingram – As we learned from Hoop Hype, Ingram and James don’t mesh well on the court. The Lakers were outscored by nearly 2 points per every 100 possessions when both Ingram and James shared the floor. LeBron’s presence forces Ingram to change his game in order to be effective. Ingram must get better at cutting and moving off the ball.
  • Lonzo Ball – Ball and James share strong court vision and passing skills. Because LeBron envisions a fast-paced style of basketball for the Lakers, Ball is forced to be more aggressive in attacking the rim. Before joining LeBron on the court, Ball was already working on his jump shot. As the season progresses, Ball will be forced to continue developing his jump shot so LeBron can kick the ball out to him for a quick jumper. Ideally, LeBron would distract the defense and then find Ball for an easy jump shot.
  • JaVale McGee – LeBron was responsible for recruiting McGee. So far, it’s paying off. McGee is outperforming his career averages in almost every area. On the defensive end, McGee is an aggressive rim protector. Plus, McGee is a back-to-back champion. His experience could pay off if the Lakers make it to the postseason. Already, by lobbying for McGee, LeBron has brought in an aggressive defensive force and a championship-caliber veteran to the Lakers’ young team.

Merchandise and Ticket Sales

As expected, the “LeBron James Effect” caused an explosion of Lakers tickets and merchandise sales.  According to CNBC, preseason merchandise sales doubled compared to last season. At the beginning of the season, James was also making a splash on eBay. The site was selling 200 LeBron James jerseys per day. Likewise, the Nike LeBron 15 enjoyed record-breaking sales. MSNBC reports that according to StubHub stats, Lakers ticket sales went up by over 400 percent compared to last year.

Bringing Back Showtime

For the Lakers, LeBron’s popularity isn’t just a win because of the immediate monetary impact. LeBron’s arrival could make the Lakers a relevant brand again. As a loyal Lakers fan since Kobe’s rookie season, I’ve witnessed the team go from the glitzy “Showtime Lakers” to a team that barely made the news. Sad to say, my last truly proud moment as a Lakers fan was when they defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Since then, only a few moves have made me hopeful of seeing the Lakers return to Showtime glory. Bringing in Luke Walton as a young leader was a positive move. The addition of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma brought more hope for a successful Lakers’ rebuild. However, LeBron’s arrival was that blockbuster move I was waiting for. It shows that the Lakers are still committed to being the Showtime Lakers.

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