Dave McMenaminESPN staff writer4 minutes to read
LOS ANGELES — LeBron James made his way down the ramp out of the ring Monday night, having just finished his 20th NBA season with an unofficial sweep of the playoffs, and he doesn’t know if this will be the last time he makes such a walk. active player.
James told ESPN that he will consider retiring this season.
After scoring 40 points and playing all but four seconds of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 113-111 Game 4 loss to the Denver Nuggets — when his last-second floater was blocked for trying to force overtime at the buzzer — James ended his conference call by telling reporters to “move on with the game.” Basketball, I have a lot to think about.”
After the press conference, ESPN asked James to clarify his statement.
When you say you have to overthink things, what thread should we pull?
If you want to keep playing, James said.
As next year?
Will you walk away?
“I have to think about it.”
The 38-year-old James concluded his 20th NBA season leading the No. 7-ranked Lakers through to the Western Conference Finals.
He played in all 17 of Los Angeles’ games—including a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves—while still suffering from a right foot injury that caused him to miss a month in a row late in the regular season with a torn tendon.
James said he heard a pop when he was hit in the foot against the Dallas Mavericks on February 26. He consulted a cadre of medical professionals, many of whom recommended surgery, before finding a doctor he described as “Lebron James’ feet” and who was assured he could rehabilitate the injury and return to court without the procedure.
When asked Monday if surgery could be an option this summer, James told ESPN, “I’m going to do an MRI on her and see how the tendon may or may not heal and go from there. We’ll see what happens.”
While James admitted that his performance was affected by his feet after his return, he did not consider closing his season early, as was the case last season, when he missed the last five matches with an ankle injury, and in 2018-19, when he was absent from the last six due to injury. A groin strain that has not fully healed.
“I knew I could make it to the finish line,” James told ESPN. “Obviously I knew I had to deal with it and deal with the pain or deal with not being able to be myself before the injury, but there was nothing that made me feel like I couldn’t make it to the finish line.”
James was brilliant in Game 4 against Denver, setting a new personal best for first-half points in a playoff game by lighting the Nuggets to 31 points on 11-for-13 shooting at the end of the first half while playing in the 282nd game of his career. .
While he finished with nearly twice as many points as his closest teammate (Anthony Davis scored 21), James eventually fell short twice trying to tie the game down the stretch – first missing a fade with 26 seconds left and then being blocked by Aaron Gordon. with the expiry of time.
James has one season left on his contract with the Lakers, worth $46.7 million for 2023-24, and a player option for the following season worth $50.4 million.
Over the past several years, he has repeatedly stated that his goal is to play with his eldest son, Bruni, in the league before retiring. When he came close to passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record in February, he told ESPN the last thing left for him to accomplish after the scoring mark was, “I played with my son.”
However, he has recently softened this stance. After the Lakers’ Game 3 victory over the Golden State Warriors in the second round—which coincided with the day Bronny announced he would be playing college basketball at USC next season—James adjusted expectations.
“I did what I had to do in this league, and my son is going to start his journey,” he said. “And whatever his journey, whatever his journey, he will do what is best for him. And as his father, his mother, Savannah, brother and sister, we will support him in whatever he decides to do. So, just because this is my ambition or my goal, doesn’t mean it’s his. And I agree. totally on it.”
A source close to James told ESPN that the post-season in Los Angeles has been taxing for the Lakers star in various ways. There were the long drives and physical play in the Memphis Grizzlies series; the emotional and mental exhaustion of Golden State’s series of wiping out his old enemies; He gave everything he had to give against Denver and still lost the series 4-0.
Davis, when reported to him by ESPN about James’ post-game comments after Monday’s loss, was surprised to hear them at first. Like James, Davis is under contract with the Lakers for next season – one of the few players with deals on a roster that could see a lot of action this summer.
But after looking at the comments a little longer, Davis recalled a recent conversation he had with James when he told James that “I might have another one” when talking about the 2024 Olympics in Paris. He told James Davis that he might already be over by then. Believing James Michich, Davis said, he was talking about NBA next summer, not 2028 in Los Angeles.
James repeated to Davis that he could already hang up his sneakers by then.
For now, James will have time to think. His feet will be examined. He’ll see how the Lakers look for next season and decide if he’ll fit in at #21.
As much as there is a side of him wondering if it’s time to go, however, there is still a side of him that is still very much there.
When asked by ESPN if he thought a full summer of rehab could get him back into the player he was before he injured his foot, James nodded.
“Because I’m still better than 90% of the NBA,” he said. “Maybe 95.”
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