Road to LA: LeBron James' career highs and lows
LeBron James' long and winding road has led him to Los Angeles, but like all ventures, it is about the journey, not the destination.
Before signing a four-year contract worth $154million with the Lakers on Sunday, James' humble beginnings originated in Cleveland.
After seven years of failed title runs with the Cavaliers, he took his game to Miami, where he endured harsh criticism before winning consecutive championships with the Heat.
James later returned to Cleveland in 2014 and vowed to win his hometown team a title, a promise he fulfilled during the 2015-16 season.
We take a closer look at the highs and lows of James' decorated NBA career that spans 15 years and three teams.
High: The chosen one (2003)
An Akron, Ohio, native, James was selected by the Cavs with the number one overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. In his first professional game against the Kings, he logged 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and six steals. He went on to become the youngest player to earn NBA Rookie of the Year honours after an impressive inaugural season in which he averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game.
James would go on to set numerous records during the first five years of his first stint in Cleveland, including the youngest player to score 50 points in a game, the youngest player to record a triple-double and the youngest player to reach 10,000 points. He also passed Brad Daugherty as the all-time leading scorer in Cavs history.
Low: Punitive public perception (2010)
James became an unrestricted free agent in July 2010 and later announced he would join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by signing with the Heat in a televised event on ESPN called 'The Decision'. He received a warm welcome to Miami, but his choice to leave Cleveland was not well-received outside the city.
@Kingjames: "It just felt right."
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) July 10, 2010
High: Turning up the Heat (2013)
James won his first NBA title in 2012 by defeating the Thunder in five games and claimed a second straight championship the following season as the Heat bested the Spurs in a seven-game series, though he could not help Miami complete their quest for a three-peat.
A post shared by Miami HEAT (@miamiheat) on Jun 21, 2013 at 12:35pm PDT
High: Return to his roots (2014)
James opted out of his contract with the Heat and became an unrestricted free agent in July 2014. It was not long before he revealed he would return to Cleveland, where he formed a new star trio with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
You can always come home. Are you ready for this, #CavsNation? pic.twitter.com/QCzIqXQN2p
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) July 12, 2014
High: Redemption reached (2016)
After leading the Cavs back from a seemingly bottomless hole, James helped Cleveland capture the city's first professional sports title in 52 years and become the first team in league history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals by outlasting the Warriors in seven games.
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. #OneForTheLand pic.twitter.com/thvzlbfYbp
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) June 20, 2016
Low: Star power overload (2017)
Tensions grew in Cleveland as Irving longed to escape James' shadow and take on a bigger offensive role. After losing a rematch against the Warriors in the Finals, Irving requested a trade and was sent to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, though the injury-riddled point guard was eventually traded to the Lakers after playing 15 games with the Cavs.
Low: Breaking out the brooms again (2018)
Having already been swept by the Spurs in 2007 as the Cavs competed for a title for the first time, James fell victim to another four-game defeat in the championship series as Golden State won their third title in four years. Led by the triple threat of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, the Warriors are favoured to win it all again in 2018-19.
High: L.A. Bron (2018)
The hype was real surrounding James' third free agency stint and all hunches that pointed to Los Angeles turned out to be correct. With the addition of James, the Lakers bolstered their roster and odds to win a championship next season.
The Lakers may not be done adding to their squad, either, as Spurs star Kawhi Leonard had expressed his desire to play for Los Angeles before James' signing.