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LeBron James’ latest retirement twist suggests the Lakers star will stay

With his comments after the Lakers’ season-ending loss to the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, LeBron James indirectly introduced the subject of a potential retirement with vague and cryptic comments.

The 38-year-old never specifically mentioned the word ‘retirement’, but James was measured with his responses on the night of May 22 – and the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to the Nuggets – dragged on until in the early morning of May 23, telling reporters that he has “a lot to think about” and reiterating the same separately to ESPN.

But, for now, it seems the belief is that James will return and “fulfill his contract” with the Lakers in 2023-24, according to an ESPN report that cites an unnamed source close to James.

Should James decide to retire, it would mark a drastic shift from his previous plans to play alongside his son, Bronny, in the NBA, especially as Bronny will enter college at USC in the next year – the final season remaining on the two-year, $97 million contract James signed with the Lakers in August 2022.

LeBron James speaks to reporters after the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to the Nuggets.
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The end of a historic career appeared as a possibility, however, with comments from James earlier this week.

In an interview with ESPN after the match, James was asked ‘what thread should we draw’ from his response to the press conference, and James replied: ‘If I want to keep playing’ – before confirming that he was, in fact, referring to the decision whether or not to play next season.

Reporting by Bleacher Report echoed similar tenor, and James did not address reporters on Tuesday when the Lakers held their exit interviews.

But chief executive Rob Pelinka said: “We look forward to these conversations [with James] when the time is right,” acknowledging that the franchise will give James time to think about his decision.

“LeBron has given as much to basketball as anyone who has ever played,” Pelinka said. “When you do that, you earn the right to decide if you’re going to give more. …Obviously our hope would be that his career continues, but we want to give him time to have that inflection point and support him along the way.

James, who has spent the past five seasons with the Lakers and won a championship with them in 2020, averaged 28.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game throughout the 2022-23 season, helping Los Angeles to topple the 6-seeded Grizzlies and No. Warriors in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, respectively.

But Los Angeles couldn’t replicate its playoff success against the Nuggets in the Conference Finals.

LeBron James scored 40 points in the Lakers' Game 4 loss to the Nuggets that ended their season.
LeBron James scored 40 points in the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to the Nuggets that ended their season.
Getty Images

James averaged 27.7 points per game in the series, including a 40-point outing in Game 4, but the Lakers were still swept.

Then their offseason of uncertainty — with James, with their plethora of free agents, with everything that comes with those looming questions — began, though it seems some clarity has begun to emerge.

New York Post

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