LOS ANGELES — LeBron James says that the most satisfying part of the two-year, $85 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers that he signed last week isn’t the money. It isn’t the fact that it assures him 20 seasons in the NBA. It isn’t the pride in knowing that he has worked hard enough to stay on top of his game that a team wants to compensate him so well as he reaches his late 30s.
No, what really excites James about his new deal is how it aligns his future with that of his son, 16-year-old LeBron James Jr.
“The best thing about it is the year I’ll be a free agent will be the same year my oldest son graduates high school,” James said Monday on a videoconference with reporters, making his first comments since the start of training camp. “So I’ll have some options to see, for me personally, what I want to do forward, being around my family, being around my son more or continue to play this game I love with great health and great spirits. We’ll see.”
James’ son, also known as Bronny, is a sophomore at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, California. A 6-foot-2 guard, he came off the bench last season for the nationally ranked program.
It remains to be seen how Bronny develops as a professional prospect in the next few years or if the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement will be amended to allow players to be drafted straight out of high school once again, an option the league did away with in 2005.
This isn’t the first time James has broached playing in the league with his son.
“You want to ask me what was the greatest achievement in my life? If I’m on the same court as my son in the NBA,” James said during an ABC production meeting for the 2018 NBA Finals. “That would be No. 1 in my lifetime as an NBA player. … I’ve thought about it because my son is about to be 14, and he might be able to get in there a little earlier.”
“Play together,” play-by-play announcer Mike Breen interjected.
“Or play against,” James replied.
James, who will be 38 when the extension expires, would not speculate on how long he might play beyond the 2022-23 season.
“I don’t look too far into the future as far as myself,” James said. “I just give the game as much as I can in the time being and see what happens. I’ve been blessed to be a part of 18 straight training camps, and I’ll never take that for granted.”
In the meantime, James has a championship to try to defend for the fourth time in his career. He managed to achieve a repeat once in his previous three tries, winning the title with the Miami Heat in 2013 after breaking through for the first championship of his career in 2012.
However, with the Heat in 2014 and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, James’ teams fell short of their goal, losing in the NBA Finals.
“I guess the bull’s-eye just becomes even greater, if that’s even possible,” James said when asked about the challenge of repeating. “For me personally, the bull’s-eye has always been on my back — or my front — since I entered the league. You add in the Laker name on top of that, the Lakers franchise, the bull’s-eye has been on this franchise for a long time as well.”
The journey to repeat will begin with the first of four preseason games Friday against the LA Clippers, with opening night of the regular season to follow on Dec. 22.
For now, James is just another basketball player adjusting to the rigors of running up and down the court again after an offseason break.
“Physically, right now I’m sore as hell,” James said. “We’re [in] Day 2 of training camp. That’s been my whole career pretty much, except probably like Year 1 or Year 2, when I was 18 or 19. I’m super sore, but nothing [major]. I don’t have anything that’s stopping me from being on the floor, doing 5-on-5, doing 4-on-4, doing any drills, things of that nature. So [I’m] good in that sense.
“And then mentally, I’m great. I’m healthy. My family is healthy. I’m great mentally, so I’m in a really good place in my life. I’m solid.”