LeBron James is not exactly known to hate attention, and he fully is aware of the drama that will ensue from his comments following the Lakers’ Game 4 loss.
LeBron James to ESPN on his thought process going into the offseason:— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 23, 2023
Q: When you say you got to think about stuff, what thread should we be pulling on that?
A: "If I want to continue to play."
Q: As in next year?
Q: You would walk away?
A: "I got to think about it."
LeBron’s Lakers teammates failed to make a convincing Game 4 case for the continuation of his Lakers tenure, as Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell combined for just 25 points to complement James’ 40-piece.
While it seems unlikely that we’ve seen the last of LeBron (one book has him at +550 to retire), he will undoubtedly weigh all options available to him this offseason. As a player who has switched teams three times in his career, it is clear that The King is not afraid to find a new throne.
Force Trade to Cleveland
We’ve seen the sequel, but who doesn’t love a trilogy?
The Cavs have a promising young roster headlined by Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. While youth is a valuable quality, the team’s inexperience was evident as they dropped their first round series to the Knicks in just five games.
Jarrett Allen: “Even for me, the lights were brighter than expected.” #Cavs pic.twitter.com/BHApTWgsh7— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies) April 27, 2023
LeBron can still play at an elite level, but Cleveland provides him with an opportunity to ease into retirement and act as a player/coach à la Udonis Haslem while he mentors a budding squad looking to compete for titles.
The Cavaliers, who boast the fourth best odds to become LeBron’s new team, lack draft capital following their blockbuster Donovan Mitchell acquisition. However, if James publicly states that he will only play for Cleveland, the Lakers will be left with little leverage in trade discussions. With just 10 players under contract next season combining for $127M in salary ($24M less than last season), there is some flexibility to accommodate the return of their franchise GOAT.
|New York Knicks||+300|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+500|
|Golden State Warriors||+900|
“Take a Year Sabbatical” And Join Bronny
After averaging 28.9 points per game, nobody can question whether LeBron has gas left in the tank. Even if he was running on empty, we all know that he is much too dramatic to retire without a season-long farewell tour.
What he could do, however, is use retirement as an emergency eject button. It makes too much sense. Having missed 80 games over the past three seasons, LeBron could use a year off to get fully healthy.
Los Angeles did have a relatively strong playoff run, but a sweep is guaranteed to leave a sour taste in James’ mouth.
Most importantly, LeBron James Jr. is eligible for the 2024 NBA Draft and has been gaining steam as a potential top 10 pick.
Bronny James a Top-10 pick in 2024? 👀 @DraftExpress breaks down his big jump and the rest of the draft class on @ESPNPlus ➡️ https://t.co/DQkNUxlawk pic.twitter.com/QG6zEIclAB— ESPN (@espn) February 22, 2023
LeBron has publicly stated that he would “do whatever it takes to play with [his] son for one year”, and a year of retirement could ensure that he is free to sign with whichever team selects Bronny.
Run It Back
Sadly, the most boring option is also the most likely.
LeBron has a mansion in Los Angeles and his family, including Bronny who recently committed to USC, has built a life in the area. James may decide that the best option is to stay put and hope that Rob Pelinka can build on a strong trade deadline and craft an improved Lakers team.
With all the buzz following LeBron’s cryptic press conference, it is easy to forget that he is under contract for two more years with up to $111M on the table. There are worse fates than playing basketball in Los Angeles for a tenth of a billion dollars.
NFL Free Agency
As fans of chaos, this is our preferred choice. We’ve all had the LeBron vs Jordan debate as basketball players, but the true test of athleticism is James the tight end vs MJ the outfielder.
This would not be the first time that LeBron has garnered interest as an NFL free agent. Reports have circulated that Jerry Jones offered James a contract during the 2011 NBA lockout, and the superstar small forward allegedly began training like a football player.
LeBron played football in high school and was touted as the top recruit in the state of Ohio. While he was listed as a wide receiver, many project him as a tight end in the NFL due to his 6’9” stature.
LeBron's high school football coach thinks LBJ would've been one of the NFL greats 👀👀 @KingJames @STVMFootball— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 23, 2019
(via @MoveTheSticks) pic.twitter.com/viV7Mmjj4I
Speaking of the Cowboys, their tight end position recently became vacant when Dalton Schultz left for Houston in free agency. We also know that Dallas isn’t afraid to employ older players at the position based on their decision to start 37-year old Jason Witten for 16 games during the 2019 season.
While his future is up in the air, we’re convinced of one thing – we haven’t seen the last of LeBron James as a professional athlete.