Following the Lakers’ exit from this year’s NBA playoffs, LeBron James told the media he “had a lot to think about” regarding whether or not he will finally retire from basketball.
James, 38, famously entered The League in 2002 as the most hyped high schooler of all time. He had already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the Akron native was perfectly slotted as the first overall pick by the nearby Cleveland Cavaliers.
He was, for lack of a better term, a perfect storm for the NBA. King James arrived on the scene just as the hoops world was looking for a mainstream replacement for Michael Jordan. He seemed like the heir – and ‘Air’ – apparent.
LeBron James became all that and so much more. When he finally exits the NBA, he will leave as its all-time leading scorer. He’s also a four-time MVP and four-time League Champion, with three different franchises (the Heat, Cavaliers, and Lakers). And, with all his endorsements and business dealings, he’s estimated to be worth around a billion dollars in 2023.
You can call him an icon. Or even the top star of his generation. Or, you can just call him ‘Lebron’, because he’s clearly earned one-name status.
So, needless to say, he’s really got nothing more to prove. So, when the question of calling it quits came up after Los Angeles was ousted by Denver. For his part, James had 40 points in his team’s Game 4 loss to the Nuggets.
When the topic of retirement was raised, LeBron didn’t shy away from it. However, he made it clear that a decision had not been made yet on his part.
“We’ll see what happens going forward,” James said. “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.”
“It’s all about availability for me and keeping my mind sharp, and things of that nature. Being present on the floor, being present in the locker room and bus rides and plane rides, things of that nature. It’s challenging, for sure. It was a very challenging season for me, for our ballclub, and obviously, we know whatever went on early on (in the Lakers’ 2-10 start to the season). It was cool, a pretty cool ride.”
“James is under contract for $46.9 million next season with the Lakers, but he is in charge of his future after surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record earlier this year. He hasn’t previously suggested much personal conflict about finishing his contract alongside Anthony Davis, and his play hasn’t significantly declined after two decades in the NBA — although his health has grown less sturdy, particularly in his balky feet and ankles.”
James will be 39-years-old before the start of the 2024 season. While many contemporary athletes have stretched the limits of what was typically considered ‘retirement age’, the King has nothing more to really achieve. He is already won multiple accolades and titles, is a 19 All-NBA First-Team selection, and will always be in the argument among the greatest to ever play the game.
If he were to walk away now or play one more season? None of that would change. However, the tradition in the NBA previously has been for retiring mega stars to have a final, ‘retirement tour’. So following that form, it’s likely that next year could be LeBron James’ celebrated send-off.