LeBron James has been in the media spotlight since he was a high school junior and on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “The Chosen One.” He’s become comfortable in that glare and a master message sender — he choreographs everything he says, every Instagram post, so that the image and message he wants are projected to the world. Nothing is an accident.
The day before the Lakers could — and later on Thursday will — offer him a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension that would keep him in purple and gold through age 40, what was the message LeBron sent? He worked out with his sons Bronny and Bryce at the Lakers’ practice facility.
The post is another in a long line this summer highlighting how much family means to LeBron, and this shows how entrenched in Los Angles he and his family are now.
Family appears to be the biggest factor in LeBron James’ decision to sign an extension with the Lakers, something he can officially do today (Thursday, Aug. 4).
LeBron has a long history of using short-term contracts to leverage what he wants out of an organization, and these Lakers, as constructed, are not title contenders. The Russell Westbrook trade situation looms over the team, as do questions about whether they will use both of their tradable first-round picks — 2027 and 2029, the last picks they can trade this decade — to make significant roster changes.
That’s all business. Ultimately for LeBron, family is first — and his family is comfortable in Los Angeles.
That is why most people NBC Sports has spoken with around the league expect LeBron to sign the extension in some form. Eventually. He may well milk the leverage to send a message about roster changes — although it’s not like Rob Pelinka and company have not tried to trade Westbrook — but in the end, LeBron does not give off the vibe of a guy looking to bolt Los Angeles.
At least until his son Bronny becomes NBA draft eligible in two years. LeBron has made it clear he wants to play a season with his son. It is the one thing everyone believes he would leave Los Angeles to do. Maybe the Lakers would use their 2024 first-round pick to select Bronny and keep the family working out at their practice facility, except the Lakers don’t control that pick. The Pelicans do from the Anthony Davis trade. As Joe Varden laid out well at The Athletic this week, the Pelicans have the option of using that 2024 pick or deferring to 2025 and letting the Lakers select in 2024. It’s obviously far too early for anyone to make that call. (Also, how good an NBA prospect Bronny is remains in question, a lot of scouts don’t have him in the first round if drafted at all. But if picking Bronny also gets a team the big box office that is LeBron for a season , the calculus changes.)
LeBron has three options with the Lakers’ extension offer:
1) Ignore it, don’t sign it, and become a free agent next summer.
2) Sign it for the full two years and lock himself in with the Lakers until age 40.
3) Sign for one additional year, or one year with a player option for the second year (a 1+1).
Option 3 keeps LeBron settled in Los Angeles but with flexibility if and when Bronny enters the NBA in another market. Most sources NBC spoke with expected LeBron will go with option three — a 1+1 — but that he may take his time signing it. There is no rush. And if that keeps the pressure on the Lakers to upgrade the roster, all the better.
If LeBron takes his time with the extension, speculation will run rampant on social media. Welcome to the modern NBA. Talk of a LeBron return to Cleveland will grow. But LeBron will keep his eye focused on what matters to him. And that is family.