LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When LeBron James showed up to his first home game as a Los Angeles Laker, he sported a crisp blue Los Angeles Dodgers cap, a smart move as the Dodgers would go on to book their ticket to the World Series midway through his Staples Center debut.
As James congratulated the Dodgers in his postgame press conference it underscored something that has become increasingly clear - there’s never been a better time to be a LA sports fan.
The Dodgers are back in the World Series for their second consecutive year and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, who returned to the city in 2016 after two decades in St. Louis, are the only undefeated team in the league after starting the season 7-0.
And then there’s James.
The NBA’s best all-around player in July signed a four-year deal with the Lakers and overnight turned the team from a bottom feeder in the Western Conference to title contender.
“It’s outrageous. There’s never been anything like this here before,” Liz Habib, a veteran sports reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, told Reuters prior to Game Three of the World Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday. “It’s like everything good came at once.”
She said the reason for the city’s unprecedented success is simple.
“It’s money,” she said. “There’s a lot of money in sports and it has everything to do with the power of the dollar.”
Expensive TV rights along with pricey merchandise and tickets have led to windfalls for the city’s teams, giving them the ability to spend lavishly.
In 2020 the Rams will move into a brand-new, $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, which they will share with the Los Angeles Chargers, the city’s other NFL team that moved to LA in 2017 and have started the season with a 5-2 record.
The Dodgers $200 million payroll is the third highest in baseball and the Lakers can afford to sign another marquee player next offseason to join James even after agreeing to his monster $154 million deal.
Los Angeles is also a sought-after destination for athletes since it is home to Hollywood, a built-in advantage for the city at a time when the best-known athletes are looking to make a name for themselves off the field.
James, for example, has several projects in the works via his LA-based SpringHill Entertainment production company and after a well-received turn in the 2015 comedy “Trainwreck,” will feature in the highly-anticipated “Space Jam 2.”
“There’s never been more of a crossover between entertainment and sports,” said Habib.
“Sports stars are becoming the biggest celebrities in some regards,” she said.
“It’s the sports capital of the world because everything is here. And it’s never been this good.”
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Greg Stutchbury