James can opt out of the $35.6 million final year of his contract this coming offseason, which has caused many to speculate about the possibility of LeBron once again spurning Cleveland fans to head for greener pastures. The most popular and intriguing potential destination has been Los Angeles, where LeBron would complete the final act of his career in a Lakers uniform. With the Cavs and Lakers set to meet on national TV on Thursday night, it's impossible to ignore the idea that James could be playing against his future team.
Despite the rumors, however, James has made no hint one way or another about what he's going to do, and most reports say that James himself doesn't even know yet. The most recent one, from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, cites sources saying that, right now at least, LeBron going to the Lakers is a "long shot." Via ESPN:
It is a delicious fantasy. And yet, in the modern NBA, where superstars change teams and seismic shifts in power seem to shake the league every summer, it's certainly not impossible. Lakers history is filled with similar feats of engineering, most recently in 2008, when they plucked Pau Gasol away from Memphis to team with an in-his-prime Bryant for two NBA championships.
So imagining James' last act coming in purple and gold isn't without basis. But as of now, it's also a long shot, according to league sources. Still, expect the atmosphere, and the intrigue, to be as thick as the winter storm battering Cleveland when the Lakers and Cavaliers play Thursday night.
LeBron has done plenty to fuel the fire, including taking in a Lakers summer league game in July and reportedly buying a second home in Los Angeles. There was also a recent report that the to land LeBron.
Much of LeBron's decision will likely depend on how the Cavaliers perform this season. It's hard to imagine that he would leave a team that had just made its fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, but a lot of crazy things have happened in the last two NBA offseasons.
No matter where he decides to play, LeBron is still arguably the best player in the NBA and appears to be defying all known understanding of how athletes age. Now in his 15th season, LeBron could be better than ever, averaging 28.2 points, 9.0 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while posting career highs in field goal percentage (.583) and 3-point percentage (.422).
So whichever team LeBron chooses won't just be getting him for a victory lap. If he can avoid major injuries, there's no telling how much longer he can remain at an MVP level.