LeBron James doesn’t do anything by chance. After his Los Angeles Lakers exit the Western Conference Finals on Monday in another loss to the Denver Nuggets, James made some cryptic comments about his future in basketball. When reporters followed up with James in the evening, he confirmed he was thinking about retiring.
“Retirement is being considered,” for James, according to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes. Haynes added that LeBron is “not sure if he will be with (the Lakers) when the 2023-24 NBA season starts.”
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin spoke with LeBron after the game, and asked him to clarify his press conference comments, when James said, “Personally, with me moving forward with the game of basketball, I have a lot to think about.” James confirmed he is considering retiring at the end of the season. Here’s what he said to McMenamin:
After the press conference, ESPN asked James to elaborate on his statement.
When you say you have to figure things out, what thread should we pull?
“If I want to keep playing,” said James.
Like next year?
are you leaving?
“I have to think about it.”
This is the first time James has said he is thinking about retiring publicly. That wouldn’t be a surprising admission with anyone else with the kind of mileage LeBron is currently carrying. The superstar forward just finished his No. 1 season. 20, and will turn 39 in the middle of next season. He played over 65,000 minutes between the regular season and the playoffs, second all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He famously passed Abdul-Jabbar to become the league’s all-time leading scorer of the season.
James is no longer the best player in the NBA that he was for years. The title now unofficially belongs to the man who eliminated him from the playoffs, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. James has clearly lost his athleticism in his old age, but he can still be very good. He scored 40 points on 15 of 25 shooting in Game 4 against Denver. He was named to the All-NBA Third Team of the season.
James has also publicly said many times that he hopes to one day play with his son, Bronny, who will be a highly touted freshman at USC next season. Bronny James could enter the 2024 NBA Draft. Is LeBron really leaving now with his dream of playing with his son potentially just one more season?
LeBron James threatens retirement to put pressure on the Lakers
James is better than anyone in NBA history when it comes to using leverage to get what they want from their team. Back in the day, James would sign 1+1 deals with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lakers to make sure his team didn’t settle on his laurels at the end of the season.
James can’t leave as a free agent this summer because he has two years left on his $97 million contract. That second year was a player’s option, which would coincide with when Bronny entered the NBA. Again, James doesn’t do anything by chance.
James knew he needed more help if he was to win his fifth championship. The Lakers are only the No. 1 seed. 7 in the West this season. LA turned around its season by a fantastic trade deadline for a repeat rotation, and they won two series in the playoffs because of it. That’s great, but James has only played for championships at this point in his career.
Who could the Lakers add at the end of the season? Well, there is one big male free agent who happens to have a close relationship with James. He was present in Game 4.
LeBron will want Kyrie Irving at the Lakers next season. Of course, the Dallas Mavericks – who had just cashed in a lot of assets to acquire Irving at the trade deadline – also want to sign him. The Lakers can’t really create enough salary cap space to give Irving a max contract in free agency, but they can come close. In all likelihood, Irving will have to force the Mavs to sign and trade to LA.
This is all speculation, of course, but it seems like safe speculation. LeBron still wants to play Bronny, as he often says. LeBron has been open about the fact that he hopes the Lakers will land Kyrie during the trade deadline. He was going to want Irving again, and he used the threat of retirement to make the Lakers front office lay any future draft picks if it helped them get it done.
Initially, it was surprising to see LeBron admit he was considering retiring. Dig deep, and it feels like an extension of what he’s been doing throughout his career.