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LEADING THE GOLD RUSH:  LOS ANGELES BECOMES THE PREMIER DESTINATION FOR SUPERSTAR ATHLETES

By Ilan LaKritz, contributing writer

October 10, 2012 | 12:43 am

Los Angeles Lakers

If New York is the city that never sleeps, Los Angeles is the city happily dreaming. Dreaming like we cheer for our sports, eager for more and more.  ‘Cause when it comes to sports in Los Angeles, fans only get more and more.  Just look around!  The Lakers, Clippers, Angels, Dodgers, Kings, Galaxy, all star-studded at the same time.  Like never before, the city has become a magnet to athletes, pulling away small-market heroes from cities nation-wide.  And it’s been this influx of stars from all major sports that continues the city’s commitment to the biggest, best, and brightest, and L.A. has never been brighter. 

Let’s have a look at the five major sports teams “based” in L.A.:

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Los Angeles Dodgers

Golden Acquisitions:  Led by Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners, the new Dodgers ownership wasted little time jockeying for prominence.  First they re-signed one of baseball’s most dynamic talents, outfielder Matt Kemp, to a long-term extension.  Then they re-signed their 2011 Cy Young Award winner, 24-year-old Clayton Kershaw, for two more years at Chavez Ravine.  Later in July, three weeks after the Lakers traded for Steve Nash, the Dodgers traded for former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez.  And again in August, two weeks after the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, the Dodgers traded for a $250 million star-trio of Josh Beckett (3x All-Star), Carl Crawford (4x All-Star), and Adrian Gonzalez (4x All-Star).

2012 performance:  Finished 86-76, 2 games back from NL wild-card berth.

Cost:  Matt Kemp- 8 years, $160 million; Clayton Kershaw- 2 years, $19 million; Hanley Ramirez- 6 years, $70 million; Josh Beckett- 2 years, $31.5 million; Carl Crawford- 5 years, $102 million; Adrian Gonzalez- 6 years, $127 million.

Star Grade:  A-

 

Los Angeles Kings

Golden Acquisitions:  Looking to spark their offense, Kings management traded defenseman Josh Johnson and a conditional first-round pick for former All-Star, forward Jeff Carter. It was a golden transaction for Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, who watched his team finish 27-9 to win their first Stanley Cup.  In an effort to keep their championship pieces intact, the Kings have already extended Stanley Cup MVP Jonathan Quick, and re-signed forwards Dustin Penner and Dwight King.  

2012 performance:  Stanley Cup Champions.

Cost: Jeff Carter- 10 years, $52 million; Jonathan Quick- 10 years, $58 million; Dustin Penner- 1 year, $3.25 million; Dwight King- 2 years, $1.5 million.

Star Grade:  B+

 

Los Angeles Clippers

Golden Acquistions:  If Jay-Z is the East Coast’s rags-to-riches romance, it’s time for Angelenos to consider the Clippers as their own.  The Clippers still haven’t won anything of significance, but for a team with an all-time regular season winning percentage of .357%, they’ve had quit the Hollywood facelift.  It started with their heist of Team USA’s starting point guard Chris Paul, a player who single handedly and instaneously renewed hope and excitement in the team.  Then it was the turn of Slam Dunk champion Blake Griffin, whose five-year contract opened the roads to Los Angeles more than Carmageddon.  And it was the pledges of support from Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes, that added the finishing touches to the team’s radical transformation.

2012 performance:  Finished 40-26, Eliminated 4-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals by San Antonio Spurs.

Cost: Chris Paul- 1 year, $17.7 million; Blake Griffin- 5 years $95 million; Lamar Odom- 1 year, $8.2 million; Jamal Crawford- 4 years; $21.35 million; Chauncey Billups- 1 year, $3 million; Grant Hill- 2 years, $4 milion.

Star Grade:  A-

 

Lost Angeles Lakers

Golden Acquisitions:  What more can be said?  They wrestled away two-time MVP Steve Nash from their conference rivals and kept 5x All-NBA First Team player Dwight Howard from forming one super-team by forming their own.  Led by the ever-imaginative Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss, the Lakers continue to flourish as the NBA’s model franchise, a title achieved not by the demographic of their fans at games but rather by the standard to which they field their team.  The standard is a simple one: win, and win with style.  And following the summer moves they’ve made, the Lakers are poised to do both, emphatically.

2012 performance:  Finished 41-25, eliminated 4-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals by Oklahoma City Thunder.

Cost:  Steve Nash- 3 years, $27 million, Dwight Howard- 1 year, $19.4 million (and a likely 5 year, $117.9 million contract offer next offseason), Jordan Hill- 2 years, $7.13 million; Antawn Jamison- 1 year, $1.4 million.   And because of their being so high above the salary cap, they’ll pay an additional $30 million in luxury taxes next summer.

Star Grade:  A+

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Golden Acquisitions:  The Angels made the biggest splash of the offseason when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the two top free agents, both in the same hour.  Wilson, a 2x All-Star, was regarded as the best pitcher of the offseason, while Pujols, a 9x All-Star, was recognized as the best batter of his generation.   Then, a little more than a month into the season, the Angels struck gold when rookie-phenom Mike Trout* emerged as an instant superstar, producing MVP-like offense and Gold Glove-caliber defense.  And in true L.A.-fashion, the Angels struck gold once again when they acquired former AL Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke, the prized pitcher of the 2012 trade deadline.  

Cost:  Albert Pujols- 10 years, $254 million; C.J. Wilson- 5 years, $77.5 million; Zack Greinke- 2 months, $5.15 million, 3 top prospects, an offseason bidding war to come.
2012 performance:  Finished 89-73, 4 games back from AL wild-card berth.

Star Grade: A

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In less than ten-months time, the sports world stood idly by while Angelenos celebrated 7 major trades and 5 major signings.  And thanks to the generosity of cities like New Orleans, Orlando, and Columbus, Los Angeles now features 5 teams with at least two former All-Stars on their current roster.  To put that in perspective, 25 U.S. states don’t even have a team.  And incredibly, this article has spotlighted a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (Howard), a two-time NBA MVP (Nash), two CY Young Award winners (Greinke, Kershaw), a three-time NL MVP (Pujols), a World Series MVP (Beckett), a Stanley Cup MVP (Brown), 11 more All-Stars, all without a single mention of Landon Danovan or Pau Gasol and their kind-of famous teammates David Beckham and Kobe Bryant.  A wealth of this measure this can only be dreamt of in the city of Los Angeles, in the City of Angels.

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