Don’t Bet For a Minute That LeBron James Won’t Be Back in the NBA Next Season
LeBron James isn’t going anywhere, Lakers fans.
Not to another team and not into retirement.
There’s no way King James walks away from the NBA after the Lakers were unceremoniously swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.
James was contemplative and cryptic about his mindset this offseason, saying he “has a lot to think about.”
"We'll see what happens going forward," James told reporters during his postgame press conference. "I don't know. I don't know. I've got a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me, personally, going forward with the game of basketball, I've got a lot to think about."
In a follow-up Q&A with ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported that in a follow-up interview, he asked James if he was referring to walking away from basketball, James responded, "I got to think about it."
The Lakers front office has plenty to ponder, too, reported in great detail here by Yahoo’s Jake Fischer.
But the bottom line is that nearly everyone believes James is just posturing while signaling that the Lakers better make some significant moves this offseason or he might retire.
Most aren’t buying it.
One NBA executive who spoke with Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report said this about James: “He'll suit up next year. He just changed the conversation. Now we're not talking about a Lakers sweep; we're talking about LeBron and retirement. He loves to control the narrative."
The 38-year-old James, who had another remarkable season this year while becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, signed a two-year, $97 million contract extension before this season began.
Doubt he leaves that on the table – even though he is a billionaire – but it’s also that he played so damn well this season, despite fighting through a foot injury that caused him to miss 13 games.
Lakers guard Dennis Schroder said he doesn’t envision hanging them for a few more – years at least, saying of LBJ’s possible retirement. “I don’t know what’s going on, maybe if it’s personal or whatever, But I mean to retire in the last game of the playoffs and you make 40 [points], 10 [rebounds] and nine [assists], I still think (he’s) got juice to play a couple of more years. So, whatever he decides. He’s played for 20 years. We’re going to support him. I’m going to support him. Hopefully he’s going to come back.”
Earlier this season, Schroder reportedly told a German newspaper that James told him that wants to play until he’s 45.
LeBron is the Tom Brady (who also retired at 45) of the NBA, after all – and both have egos as big as their legacies.
James isn’t the type to bow out without a “Retirement Tour”, either – either a year from now or two.
But the biggest reason everyone believes LeBron will return to play for two more seasons is that he’s said one of his final goals is to play alongside his son, Bronny, a USC freshman this year, who’ll likely play for one season and then declare for the 2024-25 NBA Draft.
Since the Lakers’ exit, there have been plenty of rumors flying – L.A. will work out a deal with the Golden State Warriors (unlikely), free agent Kyrie Irving will reteam with LeBron (possible), Lakers trade for Atlanta’s Trae Young – and there will be more leading up to the 2023 NBA Draft on June 22 and also during free agency, which officially begins on July 6 but really starts on June 30 when teams can start to negotiate contracts.
LeBron James' next team odds
Los Angeles Lakers -700
Retire/No Team +500
Cleveland Cavaliers +1200
New York Knicks +1500
Golden State Warriors +1500
Miami Heat +1500
Los Angeles Clippers +2000
Philadelphia 76ers +2000
Dallas Mavericks +2000
Phoenix Suns +2000
Sacramento Kings +3000
Milwaukee Bucks +5000
Chicago Bulls +5000
Boston Celtics +5000
As you can see, bettors and experts believe LeBron is bluffing about retirement.
So do I and so should you.
Unless a deal with the Warriors somehow pans out, LeBron will be back in purple and gold wearing his familiar No. 6 as he pursues his fifth NBA championship.