LeBron James will retire someday. He suggested to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic over the weekend what has long been the conventional wisdom around the league: He wants to play his final season with his son, Bronny, who isn’t draft eligible until 2024.
Until then, he remains the face of the league. There may be better players today than the 37-year-old James (though not many), but LeBron is still the King in terms of jersey sales, shoe sales, and influence.
“I’ve held that title of the ambassador of the league for — nobody ever told me to do it, but I felt like if I wasn’t going to do it, who was going to do it?” LeBron said after hitting the game-winning shot in the Cleveland All-Star Game. “I took that with a lot of responsibility, and I’ll continue to do it until I’m done playing the game.
“It will fall in the hands of the next one, whoever that may be. We’ll see.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver isn’t ready for that, he told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
“I want to be absolutely clear. I am not prepared to talk about the post-LeBron era,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Yahoo Sports recently. “And I don’t think it’s because I’m in denial. He won a championship less than a year and a half ago. From my standpoint, LeBron is still playing at the very highest level in the league.
“At some point, a new player or players will emerge, I think, [to] take that leadership mantle in the league. It seems they always do. I’m just not prepared, even in the slightest, to start thinking about the league without LeBron, because he continues to be as committed as ever to the competition, to the league overall.”
That day is coming, and the league’s other biggest name stars, such as Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, are on the back half of their careers as well. So who is the next face of the league? It will be interesting to see if an international player — Giannis Antetokounmpo? Luka Doncic? — steps into the role, or someone else. It has to be someone with a presence beyond just the sport, someone who can set a tone with words and actions.
Silver just doesn’t want to think about who that might be. At least not yet.