Earlier this week, LeBron James shook the NBA world when he flirted with the idea of retirement after the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. But according to a new report, the growing belief is that the future Hall of Famer is not yet ready to say goodbye to the game.
As speculation surrounding James’s future continues to swirl, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported Friday a source close to James told him he “believes” the Lakers superstar will “fulfill his contract” and return in the fall for his 21st NBA season. The 2023–24 campaign is the last year on James’s current deal, a two-year, $97 million pact he signed last August.
McMenamin later doubled down on his report on Friday’s NBA Today, where he said the Thursday source “fully expects” James to return before addressing his remarks on retiring. Shortly after L.A.’s Game 4 loss on Monday, James offered a cryptic message after telling reporters he has “a lot to think about” in terms of his NBA future.
According to McMenamin, a source told him earlier in the week James’s comments came at a “raw time” for the 38-year-old in the aftermath of bitter defeat. McMenamin did also note he believed James meant what he said Monday, despite the expectation that he will be back.
“Certainly, I believe on Monday night, it was a very real statement he was making, he was considering walking away in that moment. But it sounds like we will see him back with the Lakers next year,” he added.
LeBron is expected to return to play for the Lakers next season, according to sources close to the player.— ESPN (@espn) May 26, 2023
(via @mcten on NBA Today) pic.twitter.com/Tk8GyaDCwt
While it remains to be seen what James decides, a possible exit from the NBA would certainly be a stunning development for the four-time NBA champion and the league’s all-time leading scorer.
Despite being limited by injuries all season, James managed to lead the Lakers back to within reach of the Finals in what was the 12th conference finals appearance of his career. The veteran forward averaged 27.8 points, 10 rebounds and 9.5 assists per contest in four games against Denver.