Even after back-to-back disappointing seasons riddled with injuries, LeBron James and the Lakers have reportedly agreed to an extension, according to multiple reports. The extension is for two years and $97.1 million with a player option for the second season.
BREAKING: Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has agreed on a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension – including a player option for the 2024-2025 season, @KlutchSports CEO Rich Paul tells ESPN. James had been entering final year of deal worth $44.5M.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 17, 2022
The two-year, $97.1M extension, which includes a 15 percent trade kicker, makes LeBron James the highest earning player in NBA history with $532M in guaranteed money. He surpasses Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant. pic.twitter.com/UUHMspiKZp— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 17, 2022
Sources: Four-time NBA champion LeBron James has agreed to a two-year, $97.1 million maximum contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers, taking him under contract through 2024-25 season.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 17, 2022
Cap hits for LeBron James:— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) August 17, 2022
Lakers were looking at $60M+ in 2023 cap space before this extension. Trade now looking like their main path forward to improving the roster. https://t.co/wlWmZ8FrGe
There is some flexibility in the contract and it could increase by upwards of $14 million if the salary cap increases ahead of the 2023-24 season.
The deal can increase to $111 million if the salary cap in 2023-2024 rises to a substantially higher number.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 17, 2022
The extension also makes James’ time with the Lakers the second-longest stint with any one franchise of his career. Barring a trade and assuming James picks up his player option, he’ll play seven seasons in Los Angeles at a minimum, matching the amount of years spent in his first stint in Cleveland.
While James has shined individually when healthy during the last two campaigns, the team has not. A litany of injuries to James and Davis in each of those years has limited the Lakers to one playoff appearance — a first round exit — since winning the title in 2020.
James has taken to life in southern California with longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein going as far as to say he and his family are “entrenched” in Los Angeles. That likely factors into the decision nearly as much as anything on the court could.
Ultimately, it may have proven enough for James to sign on and put some faith in the Lakers’ front office, though not nearly as much as his last extension. Still, given the state of the Lakers both in the recent past and projecting forward, having LeBron commit in any way to their future is a huge win for the franchise.
It removes the uncertainty of the situation and also keeps the Lakers and LeBron from having to answer questions throughout the season about his contract status, something that surely would have served as a massive distraction throughout the year.
Now, the challenge for the Lakers will be finding ways to maximize these final stages of LeBron’s career. They’ve struggled with it in the past but all it takes is getting it right once and, as we’ve seen, it can end in another title.