LeBron James, renowned as the court’s King, has once again exhibited his mastery in controlling the media narrative.
Despite the Los Angeles Lakers’ 4-0 series loss to the Denver Nuggets, James skillfully steered attention toward retirement during the post-game press conference following the decisive fourth game.
This strategic maneuver distracted from the Lakers’ defeat and the outstanding performance by Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.
In game four, James displayed his enduring greatness by delivering an extraordinary performance with 31 points in the first half, finishing with a total of 40.
With James proving that he is still one of the best players in the world on the biggest stages, the lingering question arises: Could that brilliant performance potentially be the King’s final game?
Here are three factors that will influence his decision to stay or walk.
Pursuing an unprecedented milestone
Having already surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record, James can now set his sights on another remarkable achievement.
His aspiration is to share the NBA court with his son, Bronny James, an accomplishment never before realized by any player.
James junior will be eligible to join the NBA in the 2024-25 season, meeting the age and educational requirements outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NBA and its Players’ Association.
LeBron James could potentially play the upcoming season with the Lakers and subsequently decline his player option, enabling him to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024.
This option presents an intriguing possibility, which may enable him to play alongside his son.
James recently reached a substantial two-year agreement with the Lakers worth $97 million, set to take effect soon. This contract would earn him nearly $47 million in the upcoming season, with the potential to exceed $50 million in the 2024-25 season if he exercises his player option.
Opting for retirement now would mean forfeiting the entirety of this lucrative extension.
Notably, James’ contract does not include a no-trade clause, leaving the possibility of the Lakers trading him without his consent.
However, the contract does feature a 15 percent trade kicker, resulting in a salary increase if he were to be traded to another team.
While James may not necessarily be in dire need of the money being a billionaire, $100 million is unquestionably a significant sum even for him.
Quest for GOAT status
Despite the Lakers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, the team’s performance displayed promising signs.
With crucial components missing, the Lakers now have an opportunity to acquire vital talent during this year’s free agency period. The Lakers are currently projected to have approximately $31 million to $32 million in cap space, potentially placing them in contention for top free agents like James’ former teammate and one of the best players in the league, Kyrie Irving.
Such an acquisition could potentially lead the Lakers to secure the championship next season, strengthening James’ claim as the Greatest of All Time, or GOAT, with his fifth ring at the age of 39 in his 21st NBA season.
With James’ desire to play alongside his son Bronny, pursuit of his fifth ring, and the significant financial considerations at hand, the notion of the King’s retirement can easily be dismissed. James will most probably continue to grace the court and compete in the upcoming season.
Mohammad Akkawi is a sports analyst and founder of Sport Scoop