LeBron James was spotted flying a private plane into Los Angeles on Saturday, according to an ESPN SportsCenter report, but Lakers fans shouldn’t get their hopes up about their team reeling in the NBA’s most coveted free agent just yet. According to a report by the network’s top NBA correspondent, James has dispatched his agent to meet with the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, July 1.
“Philadelphia is meeting with LeBron James and his reps today in Los Angeles, league sources tell ESPN,” Adrian Wojnarowski write on his Twitter account shortly before noon, Eastern Time, on Sunday. “For today’s meeting, Sixers will meet with LeBron James’ reps, sources tell ESPN. James will not attend this meeting.”
The new information from Wojnarowski could suggest that another rumor spread by a sports media personality on Sunday morning is incorrect. Fox Sports One First Things First host Nick Wright took to his own Twitter account on Sunday morning to announce, “LeBron has made his decision and informed those close to him. Expect the official announcement Tuesday morning.”
But Wright himself denied that his report was negated by the information provided by Wojnarowski.
“What Woj is reporting is (obviously, as always) 100% correct,” Wright wrote later on Twitter. “This isn’t in conflict with what I just reported.”
While Wright didn’t elaborate, his Twitter followers drew what appeared to be the obvious conclusion — that James has chosen to sign with the 76ers.
James flew into Los Angeles from the Caribbean island of Anguilla, where he was reportedly vacationing.
“(James) landed in (the Los Angeles suburb of) Van Nuys just after 11 a.m. PT,” Wojnarowski reported on ESPN.com. “His reason for being there is unknown; the Lakers are considered a strong candidate to sign James, but he also has an offseason home in L.A.”
Philadelphia has the ability to pay James the maximum salary allowed by the NBA, “a $35.6 million annual maximum salary, potentially partnering him with two of the NBA’s best young stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons,” the ESPN reporter noted, adding that $35.6 million was also what James would have made with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018-2019.
James has “maintained a dialogue” with the Cavaliers’ upper management since the end of the 2017-2018 NBA season, Wojnarowski wrote.
ESPN Sports Business correspondent Darren Rovell on Sunday noted a significant advantage that would accrue to James by choosing to ink a deal with Philadelphia rather than the Lakers, posting to his own Twitter feed.
“Lakers & 76ers can offer LeBron the same four-year max deal, but Sixers deal nets LeBron around $11 million because of tax difference between California & Pennsylvania,” Rovell noted, as the Philly Fan Life blog optimistically put the pieces together.
“Why would the Sixers, who didn’t have a meeting scheduled with Lebron’s camp, mysteriously make one after reports surfaced that Lebron made his decision and will announce it on Tuesday?” the site said in a Sunday post. “ALL SIGNS POINT TO THE KING COMING TO PHILLY AND COMPLETING THE PROCESS.” (The all-caps style appears in the original blog post.)
New York Times NBA correspondent Marc Stein reported that 76ers owner Josh Harris and David Blitzer will be at the meeting with James’ agent, Rich Paul. The ‘Sixers owners plan to pitch James the promise that the team will also acquire San Antonin Spurs disgruntled star Kawahi Leonard, according to Stein — a series of moves that would give Philly a Golden State Warriors-like super-team.