Amongst all of the major team sports, basketball is arguably the one where a singular player can have the biggest impact. A perfect example of this is how much has drastically changed within the Lakers’ organization since LeBron James’ arrival in 2018.
Prior to James signing with Los Angeles, the Lakers were riding out a rebuild with a budding young core that had yet to make major strides in propelling the team back into contention. Internally, the organization also dealt with their own growing pains as their new basketball operations staff caused many to question the team’s ownership and plan going forward.
While there were ultimately a myriad of moves that helped stabilize what was a bumpy time within the franchise, James’ provided the exact set of steady hands they needed to guide them into their next era of basketball.
Beyond his stellar on-court play, James also helped elevate the roster by attracting multiple players to head out west thanks to a booming bullpen of Klutch clients. The most prominent of those names that joined him in purple and gold was Anthony Davis.
Five seasons and one championship later, the Lakers will likely once again find themselves in contention this upcoming year, with a big reason continuing to be James’ presence.
However, as he enters his 21st season and inches closer to age 40, James is firmly within the twilight portion of his career. Because of this, it's uncertain how much longer he will choose to play as his comments following the Lakers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals not so subtly hinted at a potential retirement in the not-too-distant future.
But regardless of when James decides to hang up his sneakers for good, Lakers’ controlling owner and president, Jeanie Buss, recently made it crystal clear that the team will honor his contributions when the time comes.
In an interview with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Buss discussed multiple topics surrounding the team, including how and when the Lakers will go about enshrining James’ name and number alongside the rest of their legends.
“The standard for having your jersey retired as a Laker is when a player is inducted into the Hall-of-Fame. I have absolutely no doubt that LeBron will make it into the Basketball Hall-of-Fame,” Buss told Sportskeeda.
“When he does so, then we will retire his jersey. Knowing that he will make it into the Basketball Hall-of-Fame, he will have his Lakers jersey retired, no doubt about it.”
James obviously will meet the Lakers’ high criteria of making it into the Hall-of-Fame once he retires, and once he does so, will accomplish a feat only 12 other players have done before — having their jersey hung from the team’s rafters.
Despite getting up there in age, James has proved to be worth this honor during his five seasons with the team. Beyond helping deliver another championship to the franchise, James has also led the Lakers in total points, assists and rebounds since joining the team according to PBP stats.
While he recently put the retirement speculation on hold when he announced his return this upcoming season, it’s worth spotlighting that James is set to enter the final year of his contract with Los Angeles. He may ultimately go on to play for several more years, but whether or not that transpires in a Lakers jersey remains to be seen.
Looking ahead, a potential future quirk to James’ eventual jersey retirement is the fact that he has worn two different numbers during his Lakers’ tenure. He will reportedly switch back to No. 23 this upcoming year.
Kobe Bryant is currently the only player in NBA history to have two numbers retired by a single team. Will James be the next name to join him?
“That’s a discussion for another time,” Buss said in the interview.
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