Dr. J admires James’ willingness to leave East for West

Ashish Mathur

NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving, A.K.A. Dr. J, says he admires LeBron James' willingness to leave the Eastern Conference for the tougher Western Conference.

James signed a four-year, $153.5 million contract with the Lakers in July, ending his 15-year run in the East. The four-time MVP has been to eight straight NBA Finals, winning two championships with the Miami Heat and one with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Many have questioned James’ decision to join the Lakers since the roster appears nowhere near ready to compete for a championship. Erving, however, has respect for James, saying it takes guts to leave a conference you have dominated for years to take on a new challenge in the rugged West.

"I have a great admiration for a guy who dominated the Eastern Conference as he has and then goes out to take up the challenge of playing in the Western Conference," Erving said on 97.3 ESPN Radio in Philadelphia. "That’s chutzpah.

“I think Magic [Johnson] had him locked up. All that, 'we’re Midwest boys so we can get along, we understand each other.’ I think he sold him on that and the challenge for LeBron [to play in the West]."

It's fair to say James and the Lakers won't reach the Finals in 2018-19. The Golden State Warriors are favored to win the title for the third year in a row. Some believe James might not play in a Finals ever again now that he's in the West and left Cleveland for Los Angeles because he wanted a lifestyle change.

If the Lakers are able to get another superstar on its roster in 2019, say Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler, the odds of them reaching the Finals will increase. But as long as the Warriors' core of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green stick together, it's hard to envision any team dethroning Golden State.