After the Lakers were eliminated from the postseason Monday, four-time NBA champion LeBron James hinted he might step away from basketball.
James just finished his 20th season in the NBA and delivered an impressive 40-point performance during the Lakers’ Game 4 loss in the Western Conference finals.
“I don’t like to say it’s a successful year because I don’t play for anything besides winning championships at this point in my career,” James told reporters after the game.
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“You know, I don’t get a kick out of making a conference (finals) appearance. I’ve done it, a lot. And it’s not fun to me to not be able to be a part of getting to the Finals. … But we’ll see. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens going forward. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve got a lot to think about to be honest.”
LAKERS’ ROB PELINKA, DARVIN HAM HOPEFUL LEBRON JAMES WON’T CALL IT QUITS
Aside from the fact James is still one of the league’s top players, he has significant financial incentive to continue his NBA career.
In August, James signed a two-year, $97 million contract extension with the Lakers. The deal kicks in next season.
According to Sportrac, James will make around $47 million if he plays in the 2023-24 season. He could play on a player option for the 2024-25 campaign, which would pay him more than $50 million.
So, if he were to retire this offseason, he would miss out on almost $100 million in earnings.
If the Lakers wanted to avoid paying James’ salary, the team could opt of the deal and trade him. But any team that acquires James via trade would be on the hook for a 15% increase to his salary.
James still could play with the Lakers next seaso and then turn down his player option and enter free agency in the summer of 2024.
James’ oldest son, Bronny, will be eligible for the NBA Draft in 2024. James has publicly expressed a wish to play alongside his son in the NBA.
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If James decides to keep playing in LA, the Lakers’ front office will have to make several key decisions about the roster to give the NBA’s all-time leading scorer a chance to compete for a fifth championship.