rebounded 49-41. …

From George Mikan to Kobe Bryant Joseph Noteboom Color Rush Jersey , superstars have been the Lakers‘ lifeblood for decades.

LeBron James is already the biggest star of his generation, and he followed a familiar path to Los Angeles‘ bright lights when he decided to sign with the Lakers as a free agent.

It’s no coincidence that this glamorous, 16-time champion franchise has consistently attracted already great players with outsized ambition. The 33-year-old James has taken on the challenge that Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal all accepted near the primes of their careers.

Becoming a basketball superstar is one thing, and nobody is bigger than James after 15 prolific NBA seasons and three championships. Succeeding with the Lakers is something different, according to many of the men who have worn this gold jersey.

Just ask Bryant, who won two Olympic gold medals as James’ teammate while spending his entire 20-year career with the Lakers.

”The NBA does better when the Lakers are at their highest potential,” Bryant, who retired in 2016, told Fox Sports Radio on Monday. ”And for the city of LA, it’s important for us to have that star power. Jerry (West) was here. Elgin Baylor was here. Wilt was here. Magic was here. Cap (Abdul-Jabbar) was here. Shaq, myself Tyler Anderson Colorado Rockies Jersey , and now let’s carry it forward again. You’ve got LeBron here now. It’s his turn now. Hopefully he can – which he will – take this franchise back to prominence.”

Given the Golden State Warriors‘ addition of DeMarcus Cousins to what was already a ludicrously loaded roster, a championship seems logically out of reach for anybody else in the NBA. James already was aware of the upstate challenge he’ll face after losing three of the last four NBA Finals to the Warriors in Cleveland.

And with innumerable variables still to be settled before the regular season, it’s impossible to predict what James will be able to accomplish with a revamped Lakers roster.

But at least the worst half-decade in franchise history should become a bad memory for Lakers fans, who seethed through five irrelevant seasons highlighted mostly by Bryant’s retirement tour. The Lakers’ 35 victories last year were their best performance during five years without a postseason game for a team that had never missed the playoffs more than two seasons in a row.

After James announced his decision to join the Lakers on a four-year, $153.3 million deal Sunday, the Lakers’ jersey sales skyrocketed and prices spiked on the secondary ticket market. Fans gathered among the statues in Star Plaza outside Staples Center, tossing chalk into the air in a simulation of James’ famed gesture.

Los Angeles also made a flurry of complementary moves as Johnson attempted to assemble an immediate playoff contender on the wreckage of five playoff-free years.

Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson are joining along with James. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is staying, along with – for now – the young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.

Julius Randle, Isaiah Thomas and several others are out. The Lakers will build around James Kolton Miller Color Rush Jersey , and they’ll continue to attempt to land Kawhi Leonard or another superstar to team up with him over the next year.

With Randle’s departure, the Lakers will have no players left on their roster who played with Bryant in his final game in 2016. The Lakers are steaming toward a new future, with little tying them to the lamentable recent past.

But with the signing of a free-agent superstar, the Lakers already have followed through on the most important part of the plan set forth 16 months ago by Magic Johnson when he took over the club’s basketball operations. Although he spent his entire career with LA, Magic knows the magnitude of the Lakers’ lure.

Chamberlain made this move in 1968, with the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player requesting a trade from Philadelphia to join Baylor and West.

Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1975 after requesting a trade from Milwaukee to a cosmopolitan city, and he went on to become the NBA’s career scoring leader during 14 seasons with the Lakers.

O’Neal went west as a free agent in 1996, embracing the advantages of living in Hollywood while moonlighting as an actor and rapper.

James is arguably bigger than them all, a multi-media star with a legitimate entertainment production company already churning out content for the likes of NBC, the History Channel and Starz.

When James suits up for the season opener, six of the top eight scorers in NBA history will be Lakers.

”This is a special place,” Johnson said recently. ”We know what’s special about this franchise. The people we choose to come here are going to know that Roquan Smith Color Rush Jersey , too.”



Chris Paul pounded the ball down demonstratively on Stephen Curry’s home court in sheer delight.

And maybe he sent a little message: These Rockets are for real and very much remain in the championship chase.

Houston handled the defending champions in their hostile, imposing home arena and sustained the latest second-half flurry by Curry, getting 30 points from James Harden and another 27 from Paul to even the Western Conference finals at two games apiece with a 95-92 victory Tuesday night.

Curry scored 28 points and Kevin Durant added 27 points and 12 rebounds but the Warriors missed their final five shots from the floor and their NBA-record postseason winning streak at home ended at 16 games.

The Rockets shook off a 41-point embarrassment in Game 3, a 12-0 deficit to start Tuesday and another big run by the Warriors in the third, then won it with defense down the stretch.

”We’re a team. We’re really good as a team,” Harden said.

Paul rebounded Klay Thompson’s miss just before the final buzzer sounded for the first time and celebrated in front of a stunned, yellow-clad home crowd. A replay review ensued and it was determined Shaun Livingston fouled Paul before the game ended, so Paul made a free throw with 0.5 seconds left.

And he did it all playing on a tender foot.

”A whole lot of treatment,” Paul said. ”It’s as good as it’s going to be right now.”

Curry couldn’t get off a final attempt before the buzzer.

Game 5 is Thursday night at Houston. Golden State, which went a record 16-1 on the way to last year’s title, will play its longest playoff round after closing out its first two series in five games.

”Now we’ve got to fight and really understand that this is a true playoff-type experience,” Curry said.

Golden State got the ball with 1:27 to play down 94-91 and Thompson and Curry each missed contested 3-pointers.

The Warriors got another chance with 42.5 seconds left following Houston’s shot-clock violation. Curry missed a driving layup and Draymond Green pulled down the offensive rebound and was fouled by Paul Kevin Hogan Color Rush Jersey , but Green converted only one free throw.

”I thought this is the highest level we’ve ever played defensively, without a doubt,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said, ”because we’re talking about the best offensive team ever.”

The Rockets went ahead 85-84 with 6:03 remaining on Trevor Ariza’s 3-pointer from the baseline after a beautiful bounce pass from the opposite corner by Paul.

Golden State trailed 91-86 with 3:30 left following a pair of free throws by Eric Gordon, then Curry converted a three-point play moments later.

Green wound up with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists while going at it with Paul all night in Game 4 – the first nail-biter so far in a series that had featured only lopsided results of 13 points or more.

”I’m sure we’ll look at the film and kick ourselves,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”Look, this is a great team we’re playing. They won 65 games for a reason.”

Curry knocked down three straight 3-pointers during a key third-quarter sequence in which he scored 11 consecutive points before Thompson’s 3.

Down 53-46 at halftime two days after a franchise playoff-record 41-point victory in Sunday’s 126-85 win, Curry shined in the second half once more. He scored 17 in all during the third-quarter spurt.

Curry came out and hit a 3 from the top and seemed on his way to another spectacular finish until the late misses on a night both Western Conference powers shot just 39 percent.

His 3-pointer from 29 feet out at the 5:43 mark of the third got Golden State back within 62-60 then he knocked down another moments later on the Warriors’ next possession for the lead. Then, another from the baseline before a driving layup to the left.

Much-improved Warriors big man Kevon Looney, who shed 30 pounds last offseason, earned his first career postseason start in place of injured Andre Iguodala and had four points and six rebounds.

Iguodala Antonio Callaway Color Rush Jersey , who banged his left knee during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win, was upgraded from doubtful to questionable after an MRI exam earlier Tuesday on the knee revealed no structural damage.

The Warriors got another scare when Thompson briefly went to the locker room in the second quarter with a left knee strain then returned and hit baseline 3-pointers from both sides and wound up with 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

The Rockets missed their first eight field-goal tries and committed two turnovers before Harden’s layup with 6:42 left in the first. D’Antoni called timeout at the 7:06 mark of the first with his team trailing 12-0.

”We just kept playing,” Paul said.

TIP-INS

Rockets: The Rockets were outrebounded 49-41. … Houston scored just 19 first-quarter points, its fifth straight period failing to score more than 24 before scoring 34 in the second. … After saying the pressure was on the Warriors, D’Antoni cracked pregame, ”That really worked out well, didn’t it?”

Warriors: Curry picked up his third foul at the 5:06 mark of the second quarter and took a seat and Golden State was limited to 18 points in the period. He pumped his right arm so hard after a basket in the first he nearly hit official Mike Callahan. … Curry made his signature pregame tunnel shot on the fourth try. … Golden State dropped to 32-7 in the postseason since 2015 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points. … Looney started for just the ninth time in his three-year NBA car.