Antoine Walker pumps breaks on idea of LeBron James getting statue with Lakers, says it should be with Cavs

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Antoine Walker and Shaquille O’Neal are mixing it up again, this time off the court over, of all things, a statue for LeBron James honoring his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In response to O’Neal saying he’d be fine if James got a statue outside Arena in L.A., Walker said if James gets a statue anywhere, it should be in Cleveland to memorialize his accomplishments with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Obviously, LeBron was signed as a free agent,” Walker said of James and the Lakers. “He wasn’t drafted there, doesn’t have the same feel for the fans. And the community didn’t see you and watch you grow up and watch you play and watch you develop into this champion, where in Cleveland they saw that. I think his statue should be in Cleveland.”

James, famously an Ohio native, broke into the NBA as a 18-year-old with the Cavaliers in 2003 and got them to the NBA Finals for the first time in 2007. He later returned and helped the Cavs win their only NBA championship in 2016. That achievement alone is enough to have him immortalized forever in his home state.

But James also left Cleveland not once but twice, first in his prime when he joined the Miami Heat and then later to sign with the Lakers.

James just completed his fifth season with the Lakers and won an NBA championship with them in 2020. Last season ended with Los Angeles getting swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. In between, the Lakers with James have lost in the first round of the playoffs (2021) and missed the postseason entirely (2022).

They didn’t make the playoffs in James’ first season with them (2019), with the 2020 title being earned during a short season played in a bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One unique championship and another conference finals trip over five seasons would seem to bolster Walker’s claim that a statue in L.A. might not be the right locale, despite what Lakers great O’Neal might say.

James did become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer while wearing a Lakers jersey, and he broke the record of Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which could add to the legacy of that record in regards to a statue.

Going strictly by championships won, perhaps James should have a statue in Miami marking his time with the Heat, as he won two titles in four seasons and reached the NBA Finals each year.

But even that accomplishment can be seen as a disappointment after all of the hype and expectations in the aftermath of “The Decision” when he left Cleveland for Miami. Walker also won a championship with Miami, though his title came in 2006.

James certainly is deserving of any accolade one can think of, and a case can be made for him having a statue in all three of his NBA cities.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.