Survey a hundred Americans on the nation’s greatest active sportsman and you’ll likely receive one of two answers – Tom Brady or LeBron James. While Brady is still tossing pigskins at the age of 44, LeBron has admitted that he’s unlikely to prolong his career to such an age. Now 36, will LeBron James retire a Laker or move on?
Is LeBron James Considering Retirement?
As the home of Hollywood, LA is no stranger to acts of heroism. Residents of Tinseltown do not need to purchase a ticket to a movie theater to witness superhuman acts of dexterity and athleticism, though.
LeBron James – the player many consider Michael Jordan’s biggest rival for the title of greatest NBA player of all time – is still thrilling live audiences at the Staples Center, dismissing the aging process as frequently as he defies gravity.
Alas, time waits for nobody. James is now 36 years old, and despite a reputation as the NBA’s iron man, injuries are starting to bite. As a result, James admits that thoughts of retirement have begun to creep into his mind. The good news is that no decision is imminent. The NBA’s biggest superstar is contracted to the LA Lakers until the end of the 2022-23 season following a lucrative contract extension.
Beyond this, however – who knows? In the words of the man himself, “the game will let me know when it’s time, and we’ll figure it out then.” When James does call time on his storied career, she’s surely destined to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The question remains, however. Which city will benefit from James’ unique skills in the twilight of his career?
Will LeBron James Retire as an LA Laker?
It’s arguably likeliest that James will see out his career with the Lakers. The move was described as a “dream come true” upon joining the roster in 2018, and while it’s easy to cynically dismiss such platitudes as PR fluff, there is plenty to back up such a claim.
It isn’t as though LeBron James has anything left to prove. A 4-time NBA champion, and the first player to be awarded the title of NBA Finals MVP with 3 disparate teams, James has built a legacy in LA to rival those he left in Cleveland and Miami. The impact James’ arrival has had on the Lakers is indisputable, and there is already talk that his number 23 jersey will be retired when he moves on.
A lot depends on James’ physical condition. The NBA is a physically demanding league, and James would never accept a decline in his exemplary performance standards. It remains possible that, upon the conclusion of the 2023 season, James will hang up his sneakers and focus on his various other business interests.
This is by no means a certainty, though. While LeBron James can write his own ticket in LA, there could be a handful of reasons to consider one final Swanson elsewhere.
Why Would LeBron James Leave the LA Lakers?
It’s highly unlikely that the Lakers would look to trade LeBron James. Regardless of his salary, James pays for his wages multiple times over, in terms of points on the board and tickets sold.
Releasing James would be a PR disaster waiting to happen, and surely unthinkable unless owner Jeanie Buss has something truly spectacular up her sleeve to soften the blow. If LeBron James was to move on from the Lakers, it would surely need to be at his behest as a free agent.
This, in itself, comes with challenges. It’s unlikely that any other team within the NBA could pull together a financial package tempting enough to turn James’ head. Only the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors have greater spending power than the Lakers.
James almost joined the Knicks in 2010 but opted for Miami Heat after a nightmare meeting with James Dolan. With Dolan still controlling all activity at Madison Square Garden, James is unlikely to show interest in another tete-a-tete.
As for the Warriors – while such a move would allow James to remain in California, would he really sign up with a team that shares such a storied rivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers? It’s no secret that James retains iconic status with his two-time erstwhile franchise.
Where Could LeBron James Move to?
In many respects, Cleveland is the likeliest destination for LeBron James if he does make one final move before retirement. Upon returning to Cleveland in 2014 after 4 years in Miami, James was adamant that he intended to conclude his career with the Cavaliers.
Naturally, he moved on to the Lakers 4 years later – but could the siren song of one final year in his spiritual home prove too strong? James repeated his claim that he wished to re-sign for Cleveland in 2017, though as recently as 2020 his position switched, claiming that he wished to see out his career with the Lakers.
All the same, James has never made any secret of his pride in his Ohio heritage, with the LeBron James Family Foundation operating out of Akron. The Chicago Bulls could be a wildcard option for LeBron James, as like many athletes of his age, he grew up idolizing the dream team of Jordan, Pippin, Rodman, et al.
Overall, however, it remains likeliest that LeBron James will see out his existing contract with the LA Lakers – and either sign on for one final year or retire at the top of his game. As with all serial winners, it seemingly depends upon the likelihood of success in the 2023-24 season based on the remainder of the Lakers roster. After all, would anybody seriously bet against LeBron James becoming a 5-time time NBA champion?