It is no secret that LeBron James has tried to recruit players to join him with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as he did at his previous stops in Cleveland and Miami. James has had his fair share of success as evidenced by fellow Klutch Sports’ superstar Anthony Davis forcing his way to the Lakers.
According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, James had his eye on another superstar, but Damian Lillard has repeatedly turned down King James’ recruiting pitches. During a recent feature, Fischer detailed Lillard’s loyalty to the Blazers and the franchise’s attempt to surround the All-Star guard with talent.
“By all accounts, the Blazers centerpiece is perhaps the most loyal of NBA stars, hailed around the league as a rare breed of culture setter,” Fischer detailed. “He has long rebuffed recruiting attempts from rivals—and there have been plenty. In this league, LeBron James drafting Lillard to three straight All-Star squads is not coincidence.”
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LeBron Told Dame: ‘Hey, Join Me in L.A.’
Fischer’s report comes days after former NBA general manager Ryan McDonough detailed James’ recruiting pitch to Lillard during the Audacy NBA Show. McDonough believes James tried to lure Lillard to Los Angeles shortly after he joined the Lakers in 2018.
“LeBron James has recruited superstar point guards before, who were under contract with another team,” McDonough explained, per Audacy. “We mentioned Steph Curry, but LeBron recruited Damian Lillard a few years ago, quietly, behind-the-scenes — I think it was in 2018 shortly after LeBron signed in LA with the Lakers. Damian Lillard… is one of the best players in the entire league, an MVP candidate, is very loyal to Portland and the Trail Blazers. But LeBron did recruit him, Scal [Brian Scalabrine], my sources tell me LeBron reached out to Lillard and said, ‘Hey, join me in LA and come play for the Lakers’ and Lillard obviously refused.”
Lillard on Joining a Superteam: ‘That’s Just Not Something I Can Do’
None of this should come as a surprise as James has been highly complimentary of Lillard throughout his career. During a recent episode of Million $ Worth of Game, Lillard explained why he has been reluctant to join a “superteam.”
“It’s forcing dudes to be like well, I’m going to go play with this person or if I get with this person,” Lillard noted, via NBC Sports Northwest. “But to me, like, if that’s what they want to do, I don’t got no problem with it, it’s whatever…But for me personally, that’s just not something I can do. I’d rather go out there and put my best foot forward and lose before I do that, because I know I can win if I do that.”
James was not so private with his recruitment of Lillard during a 2018 interview with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. He was still with the Cavs at the time but likely shares the same sentiment now. James was asked if Lillard was “underappreciated” and the now-Lakers star delivered an epic response.
“Give me Damian Lillard. I’ll show you how appreciated he’ll be,” James told Haynes in 2018.
Lillard’s current four-year, $176 million deal keeps him in Portland through the 2024-25 season. The Blazers guard is averaging 28.7 points, 7.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds while shooting 37.9% from behind the arc this season. We will see if James’ recruiting pitches ever allow the legend to team up with Lillard beyond the All-Star game.