LeBron James has said he wants the Lakers to be the final stop in his career, and Tuesday he took a big step to making that a reality.
LeBron reportedly agreed to a two-year, $85 million max contract extension that will keep him with Lakers through 2023, when he will be 38 years old. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the story, which has since been confirmed by multiple sources.
This removes LeBron from the potential 2021 free agent list, although nobody around the league thought he was leaving Los Angeles. This extension is a longer commitment than LeBron gave Cleveland in his last stop.
LeBron will now be with the Lakers through 2023, his 20th season in the league. Not coincidentally, that is the year his son Bronny graduates high school, and LeBron has mused about playing a season at the same time as his son in the NBA. (However, talks about doing away with the one-and-done college rule have stalled on the NBA side, and that rule may well be in place in 2023. Bronny is considered an NBA prospect but not an elite-level talent by scouts.)
LeBron struggled with a groin injury, and the Lakers struggled with younger teammates adjusting to him, his first season with the Lakers. However, after a trade for Anthony Davis and a coaching change, the Lakers went on to win the NBA title last season in the bubble. LeBron takes great pride in taking care of his body and he is barely slowing down at a time most of the people in his draft class are retired or close to it. This extension keeps the Lakers as contenders for the next few years.
LeBron is set to make $39.2 million this season and the extension gives him an 8% raise that is larger than the team could have given him considering the salary cap is expected to go up 3% next season. This is the longest extension he could sign because the over-38 rule that limits contract length kicks in after it. There is no official word yet if LeBron has a player option on the final year of this contract, but having one would fit the pattern of what he has always asked for (he likes flexibility and options, and he has the power to get it.
The Lakers still have Anthony Davis’ max contract offer sitting on the table, and LeBron’s extension makes it more likely that Davis signs a 2+1 deal (a three-year max contract with a player option on the final season). That would both line up LeBron and Davis’ contracts, but make it next to impossible for the Lakers to chase Giannis Antetokounmpo or other major free agents (outside of a trade). In two years Davis will reach 10 years of service and can jump from getting 30% of the salary cap (as he will with his new deal, which will start at $32.7 million) to 35% of the cap.
Bottom line, the Lakers will have locked up their stars for a few more runs at a ring.