When it comes to the city of Los Angeles and its sports, the city is all about its stars. For the Los Angeles Rams, it doesn’t get much bigger than Aaron Donald. Donald has been the face of the Rams franchise since they arrived in LA, winning three Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
Still, while Donald was the fact of the Rams and football in Los Angeles, it’s hard to beat LeBron James. Both players are among the greatest of all-time in their sport, but James’ global brand and ability to control the 24/7 sports talk media cycle, is very difficult to match.
This past week, the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from postseason contention when they were swept by the Denver Nuggets. While the series will be remembered as a sweep, it was simply a series in which the Nuggets took over games late and the Lakers went cold.
At age 38, retirement was always going to be a major talking point this offseason for LeBron. However, the Lakers star didn’t exactly put those retirement rumors to bed after the game. James said,
“I got a lot to think about. Just personally, with me moving forward with the game of basketball, I got a lot to think about.”
BREAKING: Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is unsure if he’ll be with team when 2023-24 season starts in fall and retirement is under consideration, league sources tell @NBAonTNT, @BleacherReport. https://t.co/7M3WuEzwOL— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 23, 2023
It is worth noting that LeBron has said that he wants to play one season with his son. Bronny James isn’t eligible to enter the NBA until 2024 which means LeBron James would need to play two more seasons. However, after his most recent comments, that may be more up in the air.
If LeBron does retire, this arguably would make Aaron Donald the biggest star in Los Angeles sports. The Rams defensive star would certainly have a case. The next names to come to mind would be Justin Herbert, Anthony Davis, and Shohei Ohtani.
Davis has played second-fiddle to LeBron since joining the Lakers. If James does retire, Davis will have an opportunity to show that he can be a central player and number one star for a team. Right now, he still needs to prove that.
Ohtani has been one of the biggest stars in baseball. While he may be the biggest star in baseball at the moment, playing for the Angels has held back his overall brand. If Ohtani were playing on the Dodgers, he’d be even bigger than he already is. Ohtani has a good case, but it’s hard not to say that MLB and the Angels are holding him back.
That leaves Donald and Herbert.
Much like the Clippers and Angeles, the Chargers are always going to play second-fiddle to the Rams no matter how good or how much better they are. Following just one season in Los Angeles and after winning the Super Bowl, Matthew Stafford was the sixth highest-selling jersey in the NFL for the 2021 season. Despite being one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, Herbert ranked outside the top-10 at number 12 last season. For Herbert to take a significant jump, he needs a MVP-caliber season that includes a deep playoff run.
Since the end of the 2021 season, Donald ranks 26th in player sales according to the NFLPA. However, following the Super Bowl between March and May of 2022, Donald ranked as high as number five which for a defensive player is extremely high.
If LeBron James retires, the number one star in Los Angeles sports will be up for grabs. Given Donald’s legacy as one of the best defensive players in NFL history, he could be the one to take over.