Report: LeBron James Could Replace Kobe Bryant When He Retires

When Kobe Bryant retires, presumably after two more seasons, LeBron James could be the Los Angeles Lakers’ next megastar to sign with the team. Preposterous? Maybe? Interesting? Definitely.

Yahoo Sports went through great lengths to paint the scenario where James would leave the Miami Heat and continue the Lakers’ extended run of megastar players by signing as a free agent with Los Angeles. Shake your head all you want. Here’s Yahoo Sports’ position:

“The Lakers are always thinking a few years down the line, but just about any NBA GM with a scintilla of job security is always thinking one or two or three offseasons ahead.

“And what is also true is the fact that, sure, the Lakers are leaving that option open. That doesn’t mean James is using the Lakers as an option, or even a hoped-for destination; and it certainly wouldn’t preclude Los Angeles from re-signing both Pau and Kobe for any number of years at any point between now and then. The Lakers are going to go after  LeBron James in some capacity in 2014, much in the same way the Grizzlies and Rockets will when James opts out of his contract that season. Maximum cap space or not, you always have to send a feeler out.

“The reason for the opt-out from LBJ has nothing to do with any perceived animosity between the Heat and James, or LeBron worrying about his supporting cast (from Dwyane Wade’s knee to the roster that will have to be completely overhauled when each — read that again, “each” — of the team’s contracts could be knocked off the books in 2013-14 due to various player and team options.

“It has to do with money, and flexibility. James can make more money from the Heat with a new contact in place of his current one — recall that he took slightly less than the max to join the team in 2010 — and he can wield a greater influence (either by turning down more money, again, or taking all he can, or signing for any number of years to retain free agent flexibility) within the team’s personnel structure. The Lakers, potentially free and clear of Kobe and Pau’s salary, will be one of his options.

“That’s taking on the notion that LeBron James, after working for years to tone down the vitriol sent his way following the much-reviled Decision in 2010, would join the NBA’s most-loathed team. It’s fun to love the Lakers, we certainly do, but they’re also the newest team that er’ryone loves to hate because of Bryant’s haughty presence, and the way they were able to dupe lesser lights on their way towards fielding Kobe, Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

“Nash will still be under contract in 2014-15, and it seems close to certain that Dwight Howard   will re-sign with what amounts to his hometown team (he grew up around Atlanta, but has called Los Angeles home for years) this summer when his contract expires. With several other Lakers besides Kobe and Gasol hitting the skids that summer, the team would have enough space to pair Howard (making over $20 million that season as a max player), a 40-year old Nash, and James.

“They’d also have to ensure that Kobe Bean Bryant, who has never met a bug he hasn’t wanted to crush, would be A-mother[bleepin’]-OK with willingly handing the reins to a team he would have called his own for 18 years over to his greatest rival. One that, if our projections are correct, he’ll have faced in the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals.”

That was a mouthful, yes. It could be as far-fetched as anything you have read about player movement. But if you read to this point, that means it at least merited your attention. Bottom line: We will see.

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