When it comes to retirement, LeBron James has always made it clear he doesn’t have a specific date in mind. The 36-year-old, 18-year veteran has previously said he will make sure he’s retired by age 46 so that his wife won’t get mad at him for playing too long, but beyond that, the Lakers star has always said he’s not exactly sure when he’ll hang up his signature Nikes.
One thing he does seem pretty sure of, however, is that he doesn’t want to play for another team after his time with the Lakers comes to an end. Both by signing an extension to stay in purple and gold through (at least) 2023, and with his recent comments on the “Smartless” podcast while promoting his upcoming movie, “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
On that podcast, James told hosts Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes that he hopes to retire a Laker (h/t Michael Corvo of Clutch Points, who did a thread on James’ comments).
And before you ask, no, I did not expect the two stars of “Arrested Development” to break the news about LeBron wanting to retire a Laker, but that’s media in 2021:
“I truly hope that I can finish my career with the Lakers. However many years that is, if it’s four, five, six, whatever, seven, I hope I can continue to play the game,” James said. “I love being in L.A., my family loves being in L.A. Being with a historical franchise like the Lakers is something... It’s like me being in “Space Jam” — I never thought it would be possible. You think about Kareem, and Magic, and Wilt, and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Kobe, Shaq and all of them, the whole list goes on.”
Four to seven more years in the NBA would put James between 22 and 25 seasons played, and as an aside, it’s pretty incredible that he can just casually express a desire to play that long without anyone batting an eye. His longevity and ability to continue to play at such a high level is both unprecedented and sort of unbelievable.
As it pertains to the Lakers, however, this is obviously great news. But James has always been open about how much he respects the history of this franchise, and so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that he wants to make sure he goes down in it with a long enough tenure and the requisite amount of success to join the names he mentioned in the pantheon of Lakers greats, and continue to climb their ranks.
How gracefully James can continue to age will obviously be a concern, but him being so committed to riding things out here and trying to chase more championships in a Lakers uniform is exactly what the team should want to hear, especially after how rough this last season was. But James’ appreciation for their history can also probably help him see the bigger picture, and he likely knows this team might be competing to repeat as champions if injuries hadn’t gotten in the way.
And hey, we know he wants to stick around in the NBA at least until his son, Bronny James, comes along, and Lakers governor Jeanie Buss has said the Lakers would love to have LeBron around for as long as he’ll stay. How long that will be remains to be seen, but with both James and Anthony Davis locked in to extensions for the foreseeable future and James seemingly committed beyond that, the Lakers at least don’t have to worry about finding their next stars for a while. They just need to make sure they keep putting the right pieces around their current ones that already want to be here.