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Lakers News: National Podcasters Discuss Possible Destinations For LeBron James To Finish Career – Sports Illustrated


On the cusp of his 20th pro season, the end does seem to be in sight for Los Angeles Lakers All-NBA small forward LeBron James. He is under contract with L.A. through his 22nd season, 2024-25, after which the 6'9" superstar will be 40. 
This year, the 18-time All-Star, four-time MVP and four-time champ seems likely to surpass the league's all-time leader in minutes (across the regular season and postseason) and regular season points, Hall of Fame Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Let the record show, James has actually already surpassed Abdul-Jabbar's total when it comes to all-time points, including both the regular season and the postseason.
James is already one of the league's longest-lasting players. It's hard to see him playing too far beyond his age-40 season. He is currently trapped on a team that seems in jeopardy of getting stuck in perpetual play-in tournament-level mediocrity as he wraps up his historic run.
So how is this all going to end up?
Bill Simmons of The Ringer and Brian Windhorst of ESPN made their predictions for the conclusion of James's career in a new episode of Simmons's podcast.
Simmons noted that James, on the cusp of his age-38 season, "conceivably could start the 40/10/10K club for points/rebounds/assists, which I find hard to believe will happen." His current tally: 37,062 career points, 10,045 career assists, and 10,210 career rebounds.
Windhorst adds that the Lakers have now leveraged almost all of the young high-upside players who had been on the club when James arrived in 2018, plus a boatload of draft picks, to win their 2020 title. 
After securing that 2020 championship, L.A. stumbled to an injury-plagued 2020-21 season. The team wrapped up with a 42-30 record and the West's seventh seed, but maintained one of the best defenses in the league (first in defensive rating and second in opponent points allowed per game) even with James and Davis hurt for a combined 63 games. 
Los Angeles promptly overcorrected in the summer. Instead of making marginal changes around the periphery of the roster, Rob Pelinka more or less blew up the club's depth around James and Davis, trading for a Russell Westbrook who was more washed-up and ill-fitting for L.A.'s dynamic duo than the team's front office anticipated.
Windhorst considers James's decision to ink his lucrative two-year, $97.1 million extension that could take him through the 2024-25 season to be "the first time he made a contract decision that may not have been championships-first." Simmons counters, suggesting that the signing was a good faith move by the Chosen One, made with the implicit understanding that L.A. would, in turn, surrender both its future first-round draft picks. 
The Lakers have apparently only been willing to do this if they view the return as being championship-caliber. Unfortunately, if we've learned anything about the L.A. front office since the 2021 offseason, it's that it may not be the best at determining what that entails.
Here are Simmons's four proposed outcomes for what looks to be the final phase of LBJ's career:
1. Los Angeles Lakers – James sticks around in L.A. and sets a bunch of longevity records while probably winning nothing. On the plus side, he appears to genuinely enjoy the atmosphere, and has been expanding his business reach and building his production organization, the SpringHill Company. Would he get a statue outside of Staples for one title and presumably several first-round exits?
2. Cleveland Cavaliers 3.0 – Something special is brewing in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. LeBron's old team has put together an exciting young core, featuring three All-Stars (Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen) and one lottery pick who seems destined to become an All-NBA talent (Evan Mobley). All they're missing is a good small forward…
3. "Title Chaser" – LBJ wants a fifth ring. Would he join a fourth club, at a salary discount, to get it? “I have a hard time seeing him not being a Laker or a Cav," Windhorst notes. "So if you're gonna say ‘title chaser,’ it’s kind of wrapped [around] with Cleveland 3.0.”  Our duo floats two clubs they see as a fit for this path. Simmons pitches the Golden State Warriors, as James has been chummy with Dubs All-Star power forward Draymond Green lately, while Windhorst proposes  All-NBA guard Luka Doncic's ascendant Dallas Mavericks.
4. Playing with a son – In the offseason, James floated the possibility that he would like to linger in the NBA long enough to play alongside at least his eldest progeny, 17-year-old LeBron "Bronny" James Jr. LBJ Sr. has suggested that, should a team select Bronny in an upcoming NBA draft (the earliest that could happen would be 2024), he'd be interested in signing with said club.


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James has found ultimate joy all through his 23-year-long journalism career by writing for national and international newspapers, websites, and blogs. From technology to politics to sports to entertainment, he has been able to express ideas and pen opinion pieces on whatever triggers his interest.