Franchise player: LeBron says AD face of Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Two decades into his NBA career, with a trophy shelf that’s running out of room due to all of his accomplishments, LeBron James sounds ready to pass the torch to teammate Anthony Davis as the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers.

“He is the face [of the franchise],” James told ESPN during the Lakers’ annual media day Monday. “You look at all these [retired] numbers that surround this facility, all the greats that have come here and AD is one of them.”

Heading into the offseason, James’ and Davis’ contracts ran concurrently with one another — with both players having an option on the final years of deals to stay in L.A. through the 2024-25 season.

Davis pushed his timeline past James’ in August, however, by signing a three-year, $186 million max extension that will keep him with the purple and gold through 2028. At the time of the agreement, it was the most lucrative annual contract extension in league history, averaging $62 million per season.

“I was very, very happy and extremely proud,” James told ESPN when asked about Davis’ deal. “It’s super dope to see him get that extension to be a part of his franchise for years and years and years. And it’s been a treat so far playing alongside of him and I hope we can do some great things.”

James publicly lobbied for L.A. to acquire Davis almost as soon as the four-time MVP joined the Lakers. The two meshed perfectly in their first season after the Lakers acquired Davis in a 2019 trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

They capped their first season with a championship in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, in 2020. The same level of success did not follow, with L.A. losing in the first round in 2021 and failing to qualify for the 2022 postseason altogether as injuries to Davis and others took their toll.

But Davis and the Lakers enjoyed a resurgent run to the Western Conference finals in the spring, with the eight-time All-Star putting up career bests in field goal percentage (56.3) and rebounds (12.5) while posting 25.9 points and 2.0 blocks per game.

However, when asked directly by a reporter if his new contract makes him feel like it is now his team, Davis did not indulge in the line of questioning.

“I think this is the Lakers’ team, and I play for the Lakers,” Davis said flatly.

There is no downplaying Davis’ importance to the team — whether it comes with the unofficial title as face of the franchise or not — and he acknowledged as much.

“I think I’m going to be the second-oldest guy here now so guys lean on me a lot,” said the 30-year-old Davis. “I feel like it’s my responsibility, being one of the leaders of the team alongside Bron. It’s my job to help those guys and help the young guys and continuously being on them. Let them know what we need and what we need to get better and giving them advice so we can all be together and unified to be able to compete for a championship.”

Davis, who missed 26 games last season because of a foot injury, said his “body feels good” heading into training camp and he maintains the same goal he had going into last season of staying on the court as much as possible.

“It’s my goal every year to play 82 [games],” Davis said. “And I didn’t do anything different [this summer]. I took some time off. Got back in the lab and I’m ready to get started. Nothing’s changed. Every year you want to come out every game and give your team an opportunity to win. Especially with my role, I know it’s a big piece of this team and with me being on the floor, it definitely helps us.”

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