Following the Lakers' season-ending loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals on Monday night, superstar forward LeBron James revealed that he is considering retirement after 20 seasons in the league. While it's certainly possible that James is ready to hang up his signature Nikes, doing so would cost him a pretty penny in contract money.
Last August, James agreed to a massive two-year, $97 million contract extension that hasn't even kicked in yet. James is set to make nearly $47 million next season, per Sportrac, and his deal is set to be worth north of $50 million in 2024-25 if he picks up a player option. So, if he were to retire this offseason, he would lose the entirety of that recent extension, which breaks down like this:
- 2023-24 season: $46,900,000
- 2024-25 season: $50,652,000 (Player option)
It's worth noting that James' deal doesn't include a no-trade clause, meaning that he wouldn't have the power to veto a deal if the Lakers decided to ship him out of town. His contract does include a 15% trade kicker, though, so his salary would increase by 15 percent if he were traded to another team.
Not that James necessarily needs it, but nearly $100 million is a whole lot of money to walk away from. Since the final year of his current deal is a player option, James could potentially play next season and then turn down that player option in favor of unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024. This is an intriguing option because James' son, Bronny, will be eligible for the '24 NBA Draft, and James has long maintained that he would like an opportunity to play alongside Bronny in the league.
"I don't like to say it's a successful year because I don't play for anything besides winning championships at this point in my career," James told reporters after the game. "You know, I don't get a kick out of making a Conference (finals) appearance. I've done it, a lot. And it's not fun to me to not be able to be a part of getting to the Finals.
"But we'll see. We'll see. We'll see what happens going forward. I don't know. I don't know. I've got a lot to think about to be honest."
Perhaps James' comments regarding retirement were simply a way to put pressure on the Lakers to upgrade the roster over the offseason. We'll find out in the coming months. In the meantime, James will have to mull over his options and decide if he's ultimately willing to walk away from a whole lot of cash.