LeBron James has redefined what success means in the modern NBA – and not just on the court, either. The four-time champion, four-time league MVP and 18-time All Star has also become an all-time maven in the business of basketball.
The latest evidence of James’ dominance off the court is the contract extension he just signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. According to the Athletic, James has signed a two-year deal worth a total of $97.1 million. The contract includes a third-year player option for the 2024-2025 season. Let’s break down what LeBron’s big deal means for the relevant parties.
First of all, it’s worth mentioning just how rare it is for any athlete to make this kind of deal at James’ age. Other players were arguably better at their peak but exactly no one has performed at the level James has past the age of 35. LeBron has now earned $387 million total in his singular career.
Normally, retaining a top-five talent at any point in their career is a win for a franchise. Unfortunately, this particular franchise has higher expectations than any other in the sport and the move also made it more difficult for them to build a championship contender around James.
While they won a title led by LeBron two years ago, there are now new obstacles to the elusive ring No. 18. That list includes a surprisingly-resurgent Warriors dynasty – winners of four of the last seven NBA Finals – plus new threats like Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who is likely to surpass LeBron as the best non-center in the league soon, if he hasn’t already.
The greatest obstacle to their success is, of course, Russell Westbrook, who was supposed to be the missing third piece to complement James and superstar center Anthony Davis. However, Westbrook’s contract (he makes $47.1 million this year) and his woeful performance last season might just make him the lowest-value player in the NBA.
Until LA finds a willing trade partner or Westbrook becomes a fundamentally different kind of player, it’s difficult to envision them getting the supporting role pieces they need to come out of a stacked Western Conference.
The timing of James’ contract – especially the third-year player option – might reveal his future plans. James has made it known that he plans to play the last season of his NBA career on the same team as his son Bronny, who’s entering his Senior year of high school. Bronny won’t be eligible for the draft for another two years, so LeBron will have to wait a while. That option for 2024-2025 might give James the flexibility he needs to join whichever team winds up getting Bronny…
This sets up what may be the most interesting offseason and draft in the recent history of the league. Once Bronny is eligible, teams may be falling all over themselves to draft him – especially if it means they’ll be first in line to sign his dad – even if he’ll be 40 by the time that season ends.