Maybe, now that LeBron James is living permanently in Los Angeles, he’ll trade in his finely tailored Thom Browne suits for the slouchy middle-of-the-summer beanies and velour sweatsuits worn by the Hollywood movers and shakers whose ranks James has joined. But on the court, at least, he’s going to look great. James, who only signed a contract to play with the Los Angeles Lakers early last month, is already showing off the upgraded on-court style we can expect come NBA season.
It’s barely been two months since we last saw James, in the Finals, wearing his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, but last night during an NBA 2K19 photoshoot James posted several images to Instagram modeling his new gear. There he is, for the first time, in the Lakers’ gold-and-purple home jersey. Notably, he’s in the Lakers’ new, more stylish version that was unveiled at the end of last month. The team finally traded out crewnecks for v-necks—it’s a small change, but it makes a difference! (Please don’t wear v-neck tees)
But LeBron isn’t just showing up and crowning himself King. James has worn the number 23 for much of his career, but he didn’t want to assume it would be his. So, in a dramatic show of respect, LeBron called up the last guy who wore 23 on the Lakers—that’d be noted Slam Dunk Contest participant Cedric Ceballos—and asked for permission to wear it. This doesn’t sound so crazy in the world of the NBA, where certain numbers are retired, and where players will pay teammates to trade numbers, but James wasn’t actually running up against any of those issues. Ceballos hasn’t played for the Lakers since ‘97—he should be calling James to thank him for bringing some prestige to the number in L.A. Needless to say, Ceballos was thrilled, according to an Instagram he posted about the call.
The real Laker James might want to pay respects to is Kobe Bryant—whose legion of stans is filled with people who are loudly looking for the exact thing Aretha Franklin was after 50 years ago. Those fans should be happy with the last image James shared: a new pair of Undefeated x Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro in Lakers’ gold. “Oh my bad I didn’t properly intro these on the last post,” James wrote over a close-up of the sneakers along with a series of laughing and flames emojis. This is a tried-and-true Nike strategy now: Over the past season, the Swoosh has splashed the team colors of DeMar Derozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Devin Booker on the Zoom Kobe 1 Protro. Nike stepped its game up for James’s unreleased shoe, though, collaborating with Los Angeles-based brand Undefeated. James, the ultimate Respect Giver, is also using the shoes to pay homage to the last great Laker, Kobe Bryant.
After years of playing in the reds, maroons, and blacks of Cleveland and Miami, it’s not as difficult to get used to James in Lakers colors as expected. Over the past couple decades, legends like Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have all put on the purple and gold. It feels only right that the King should wear the colors, too.