LeBron James Free Agency: Star has 4 options to control the upcoming Free Agency

No athlete in the history of American sports is more synonymous with free agency than LeBron James. James changed teams via free agency three times during his 19 years in the NBA, and led his new franchise to a championship with every move. When he enters the twilight of his career, he has the opportunity to exercise his power of free agency once again.

James is entering the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is now eligible to sign an extension that will pay him $97.1 million over two years. If he accepts the deal, he will bring in the largest career earnings in NBA history at $532 million. If he doesn’t accept it, James will be an unrestricted free agent again in 2023 and will ignite another year of rampant speculation about his future.

James will turn 38 in December. He’s no longer the NBA’s best player, but he’s still comfortable in the top ten in the sport. If James were a free agent, there would be plenty of teams around the league willing and willing to create the maximum space to sign him.

The big question is a simple one: What does LeBron want from the end of his career? There are a few different ideas swirling around this point.

LeBron James wants to play with his son Bronny

James has publicly stated multiple times that he wants to play with his eldest child, LeBron James Jr. Nicknamed Bronny James, before his retirement. Here’s what he had to say over the All-Star weekend in February:

“My last year will be playing with my son,” James said. “Wherever Bruni is, that is where I will be. I would have done whatever it took to play with my son for one year. It is not about the money at that point.”

Bronny James will be a high school student this upcoming season at Sierra Canyon in Los Angeles. It is currently ranked number one. 43 overall odds in its class by 247 Sports Complex. Read the full analysis of James Jr’s skill set and the road to the NBA here.

No one knows what’s next for Bruni after high school. It has scholarship offers from nearly every major undergraduate program, including Duke and Kentucky. He would likely play in the G League Ignite that helped develop Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Dyson Daniels into the NBA Top 10 picks. He could spend the year practicing for the draft, or playing in an alternative program like Overtime Elite.

It’s too early to say what James’ stock will look like, but for now it seems unlikely that he’ll be in the top 10 in 2024. For now, I’m going to shoot him as an early second round, but of course that could change. If LeBron is truly willing to follow his son wherever he’s drafted no matter the money, the Bronny Stock Exchange’s venture will likely enjoy a significant rise in the pre-draft process.

LeBron James could try to match Michael Jordan’s six heroics

James has been compared to Michael Jordan since he was in high school. With his legendary career coming to a close, most would agree that Jordan and James are the two greatest players in NBA history. While there is certainly a strong case for James as the Goat, it seems that a large section of fans wouldn’t think that he could overtake MJ until he competes or surpasses his six championships.

Currently, James has four championship rings: two with the Miami Heat, one with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and one with the Los Angeles Lakers. It is likely that he will make the next free agency decision based on which team gives him the best chance of winning the championship, as he did before when he signed with Miami.

While James won a championship with the Lakers in the bubble in 2020, the past two years have not been promising for Los Angeles. The Lakers were eliminated from the first round in the 2021 playoffs, then missed the playoffs entirely in 2022. If James doesn’t think he can realistically compete for a title by staying with the Lakers, will he really re-sign?

LeBron James may want to return to Cleveland

There is already speculation that James could return to Cleveland for a third time when he is a free agent in 2023. The Cavs have built an impressive young core since James left for the Lakers. Last year’s rising star Evan Mobley may be a star in the future, while teammates Darius Garland and Garrett Allen were named All-Stars last year. All three players are between 21 and 24 years old.

James said the ‘door didn’t close’ upon his return to Cleveland over the All-Star Weekend in 2022:

“The door didn’t shut on that,” James said. the athlete Saturday after team East training on the Cleveland State University campus. “I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing, I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.”

It would make sense if LeBron wanted to end his career in Cleveland for emotional reasons. Of course, the Cavs would also provide James with a title chance better than the Lakers, and a chance to play with Bronny.

Cleveland’s rebuilding is truly missing a dynamic striker, and no one takes that role better than James. Cleveland is reportedly “not moving forward with getting LeBron for a third time.” The Cavs could have up to $30 million in the next summer cover space with a chance to create more.

If LeBron doesn’t accept the Lakers’ extension, there will be plenty of rumors linking him to Cleveland whether they are factual or not.

LeBron James may want to stay in LA

James has business interests in Los Angeles. He’s moved his family there, with middle son Bryce James due to enter his second year in the Sierra Canyon this season. Even if the Lakers didn’t give LeBron the best chance of winning another title, chances are he’d be content to end his career in Los Angeles in hopes of playing alongside Bronney.

LeBron James could exercise his free agency power again to get the Lakers to trade with Russell Westbrook

James has never asked for a deal during his career, but has been incredibly effective in getting what he wants by taking advantage of the threat of leaving in free agency. LeBron left Cleveland the first time because they couldn’t build a championship roster around him. He left Miami in part because owner Mickey Arison used the amnesty clause on Mike Miller to avoid going too far with his luxury taxes. He left Cleveland for a second time after Keri Irving made his way to Boston and the list around him began to crumble.

What does James want from Los Angeles this time? It’s not hard to analyze his intentions: LeBron wants the Lakers to trade Russell Westbrook and acquire Irving. LeBron and Westbrook sat on either side of the gym during the summer league and had no interaction. Irving will likely be in the trade block entering the final year of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

Los Angeles could trade its first-round picks for 2027 and 2029 in Irving’s favour, but the organization is said to have been reluctant to do so. Many saw this July 4 tweet from Lakers owner Jenny Boss as a shot at LeBron urging the Lakers to trade in future shots for Irving:

With Westbrook on the list next year, the Lakers had no chance of a championship. If they can pass it on to Irving, the Lakers will likely be a contender for the championship if James, Irving and Anthony Davis remain available. Of course, that’s a big if.

If all things being equal, it looks like James will re-sign with the Lakers, vie for a championship and play a season with Brunei. It’s the “championship rivalry” angle that seems like the biggest hurdle for Los Angeles right now.

James still appears to be good enough to be the MVP of the Tournament Team, but at this point in his career he needs a lot of help. Can he get it in Los Angeles? Would he prefer playing with Brunei at the expense of realistic competition for another title? It all comes down to what LeBron wants at the end of his career. His decision to extend the contract will be the first big signal.

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