LeBron James and Russell Westbrook made their first public appearance as Los Angeles Lakers teammates sending fans into a frenzy as they attended the Las Vegas Summer League. Earlier in the day, James went viral after posting photos of his workout with Westbrook. The superstars followed it up by attending the Lakers’ Summer League matchup against the Pistons on August 14.
Westbrook and James once again went viral after a video surfaced of the duo walking into the arena to cheer on the Lakers Summer League squad, much to the delight of fans in attendance.
James even stopped to make a young fans’ day by taking a quick selfie on his way out of the arena. The kid’s reaction to snapping a photo with James was priceless as he jumped up and down after the superstar walked into the tunnel.
The new Lakers teammates sat courtside to cheer on players who are mostly fighting for training camp invites.
LeBron Pushed the Lakers to Trade for Westbrook Over Hield: Report
If the duo seemed eager to take over Summer League, it is because Westbrook joining the Lakers came together as the superstars worked behind the scenes to push their respective teams to make it happen. The Lakers also had a deal on the table to acquire Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield, but James’ preference was for the team to acquire Westbrook, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“My reporting (is) that certainly LeBron James was in favor of this Russ move over the Buddy Hield move,” McMenamin noted on The Lowe Post podcast (h/t Silver Screen and Roll). “Is it because he recognizes that perhaps the Lakers didn’t have enough playmaking and that’s kind of been a point of emphasis he’s had since the ‘16-17 season.
“…The question is, though, did he want Russ because he recognizes he’s about to be a 19-year NBA veteran who turns 37 in December and needs someone to take some of the load off him. Maybe that’s the best thing, that he has somebody he can trust that he will hand over some of the load, too. But at the same time, are the Lakers a championship team if LeBron isn’t plus-plus LeBron.”
Westbrook Has Been Trying to Play in L.A. Since 2019, Says Insider
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported Westbrook had been trying to find a way back home to Los Angeles since 2019. Prior to the trade, James and Westbrook discussed how each other’s competitiveness could fuel the Lakers’ success as teammates.
“For weeks, Westbrook had been talking to Lakers star LeBron James about the possibility of playing together, sources said,” Shelburne detailed. “They’d talk about working out together and how they’d push each other in the gym and on the court. Both are known around the NBA as insatiable workout guys who pride themselves on the condition they keep their bodies, and how early they get to the gym.”
It is partly why Westbrook scoffed at the notion that he will have trouble co-existing with James and Anthony Davis. Westbrook explained that his role with the Lakers is to make life easier for James. The Lakers 2020-21 season fell apart as James and Davis both dealt with injuries to close the season.
“LeBron is one of the best players to play this game,” Westbrook explained during his introductory press conference, via USA Today. “His ability to be able to do kind of everything on the floor allows me to be able to just figure it out. I’m coming to a championship-caliber team. My job is to make sure that I’m able to make his game easy for him. I’ll find ways to do that throughout the game. As it pertains to ball handling and all of that, it really doesn’t matter. There are many ways you can impact the game without having the ball in your hands. I’ve been able to do that for many years. I will figure it out.”