LeBron James’s talk of retirement is not serious but rather a distraction tool from playoff humiliation and a ‘bargaining chip’ to test the LA Lakers limits heading into the offseason.
The NBA superstar made headlines with his comments after the Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, with the legendary forward admitting ‘I got a lot to think about’.
Reports followed suggesting that the 38-year-old was indeed considering retirement and if he does carry on, he was uncertain it would be with the Lakers.
However, a source close to LeBron has now revealed to DailyMail.com that an impending retirement for LeBron is in fact ‘unfathomable’ and not on the cards.
Instead, they claim the forward is using the media circus around his talk of retirement as a tool to deflect attention away from the Lakers’ humiliating clean sweep defeat and to also see how far the team is willing to go to keep him ahead of an offseason rebuild.
LeBron James’s talk of retirement is not serious but rather a ‘bargaining chip’ with the Lakers
The NBA superstar gave a cryptic response when asked about his NBA future earlier this week
‘There will have to be a lot of big offseason changes to make the Lakers a championship team again and Lebron’s focus is on winning another championship,’ a source close to LeBron and the Lakers told DailyMail.com.
‘The reason for the retirement talk is actually two-fold. One, the Lakers were embarrassed and swept in the playoffs, and that really affects LeBron’s overall legacy. Which is extremely important to him, so he wanted to change the talk that was out there, and he has successfully done that. No one is talking about them losing in the playoffs, they are just talking about his future instead.
‘And second, he wants to play with his son or against his son before he retires and just like Tom Brady did, he is going to come back to finish out his contract so he can dictate the next stage of his career.
‘It would be unfathomable for him to retire; it is just not going to happen. He is using this as a bargaining chip to see what the Lakers will do to keep him around. LeBron usually gets his way and this is no different.’
James still has two years and $97million remaining on his current contract, but has a final year player option worth just over $50million.
This means the ball is in his court leaving him with the options to accept it and play with the Lakers on his terms, or to renegotiate with Los Angeles, or strike up negotiations with another team in the league.
James has played 20 seasons in the NBA, starting with seven years in Cleveland after he was drafted first overall in 2003 by the Cavaliers.
He then went on to the Miami Heat, where he won his first two NBA titles, before heading back to Cleveland to win his third.
In 2018, he moved to the Lakers and won his fourth ring in a Covid-affected 2020.
James and the Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the Nikola Jokic-led Nuggets Monday night
The forward is using the talk of retirement to deflect attention away from LA’s clean sweep
James is trying to see how far the Lakers will go (pictured: owner and president Jeanie Buss)
In addition to the titles, he also has four NBA Finals MVP awards, and is a four-time NBA MVP.
But clearly, LeBron is still on the hunt for another championship ring and the Lakers need to build a team that could give him a shot at the finals.
LA has $29.6 million in practical cap space, entering the 2023 season, according to Spotrac.
There’s currently only six players officially contracted to the Lakers for the 2023-24 season, including James, Anthony Davis, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba.
In addition, it would come as something of a surprise for LeBron to call it a day now, with his son Bronny soon to be heading into the league.
LeBron has previously made it very clear that he wishes to play alongside his eldest son, who recently committed to playing college basketball for USC.
LeBron still had a strong season, his 20th in the league, earning a spot on the All-NBA Third Team.
He broke the all-time scoring record having overtaken Kareem Abdul-Jabbar earlier this season.
He also leads the playoff scoring records, having opened a 2,036-point gap between himself and nearest rival Michael Jordan.
LeBron is said to still be on the hunt for another championship ring to add to his haul of four
Earlier in 2023, James overtook Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (pictured) for the all-time scoring record
LeBron has previously made it very clear that he wishes to play alongside his son Bronny (R)
He played in all 17 of the Lakers’ playoff games, including the play-in matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, despite still managing a right foot injury that caused him to miss a month late in the regular season.
He revealed that surgery could be an option this summer after having it examined during the offseason.
‘I’m going to get an MRI on it and see how the tendon either healed or not healed and go from there,’ he told ESPN. ‘We’ll see what happens.’
The 19-time All-Star averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game while rallying the Lakers from a 2-10 start and landing them in the Western Conference Finals.