The Los Angeles Lakers season came to an end on Monday night after they were swept by the Denver Nuggets, but that wasn’t the most talked about story following the game.
LeBron James was the center of attention as he has been for the last 20 NBA seasons. He shocked Lakers fans and diehard LeBron fans last night when he equivocated in answering a question about whether he will return for his 21st season next year. He has spoken openly about wanting to play with his older son in the league someday, but it seems possible he has had a change of heart after a disappointing end to their season and a roller coaster year.
Reporters asked James about his NBA future, and he responded with a noncommittal answer.
“We’ll see what happens going forward. But I don’t know,” James said. “I don’t know. I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest. I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest, just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball. A lot to think about.”
James is officially the last person left in the league from the 2003 NBA draft after his friend Carmelo Anthony announced his retirement yesterday.
He has two years left on his contract with a player option for the last year. The Lakers also had their eyes set on a big-name player to put alongside James and Anthony Davis. They went after Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline and reportedly had plans to make a trade for Hawks guard Trae Young. James couldn’t possibly walk away without making one more championship run.
Deflection Or Serious?
James is 38 years old and just completed his 20th NBA season. So it is not unreasonable for him to contemplate retirement. He was only limited to 55 games due to injury and missed a total of 53 games over the last two seasons.
Despite the injuries, James has still put up his usual stellar numbers. He averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game on 50 percent shooting from the field. He was a third-team all-NBA selection, helped guide the Lakers to the Western Conference finals, and passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record of 38,337 total points on Feb.7.
James’ age and recent injury history make his statement hinting at retirement very plausible, but we have seen this act before. He has a history of issuing cryptic messages to leave fans pondering his next move.
In 2015, the Cavaliers were struggling and newly acquired star power forward Kevin Love was also struggling to fit in with the team. Love averaged 26.1 points per game and 12.5 rebounds per game in 2013-14 with the Timberwolves, but his numbers dipped playing alongside James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. So James took to Twitter to basically tell Love to suck it up and play better.
In 2017, he criticized the Cavaliers’ front office for not getting enough help around him, Irving, and Love.
“It’s like when you don’t have bodies. It’s tough. The f***ing grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s***. It’s me, [Irving], [Love]. It’s top-heavy,” said James to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin in 2017.
We have also seen this in other sports as well. Aaron Rodgers over the past three to four seasons routinely left Green Bay fans and the organization wondering whether he would retire or not. Packers fans, like Lakers fans, expected to be playing in the championship at the end of each season with Rodgers as their quarterback.
Social Media In a Frenzy
Fans didn’t like hearing James talk about retirement. His son Bronny James is finally headed to play college basketball at the University of Southern California, and NBA scouts predicted he will be preparing for the NBA draft around this time next season. NBA fans naturally assumed James would give us at least two more seasons and call it a career after he achieves his dream of playing with his son.
So, NBA fans were all taken aback by the comments in his postgame interview and showed their emotions on social media.
“This is the worst day of my life bro,” one user wrote.
Another fan wrote, “He’s not leaving without giving us a retirement tour right? RIGHT?!”
Other fans were just in disbelief that James would retire.
“He won’t retire. if he does, he will come back just like Brady and Jordan did,” a fan wrote.
Only time will tell, but James’ cryptic retirement message was simply a move to deflect blame from a disappointing end to the season.