Grading LeBron James’ record extension with the Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James (Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
LeBron James (Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

News broke on Wednesday that Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James had agreed to a massive 2-year, $97 million contract extension with the team. Apart from the dollar amount, which makes James the highest-paid player in NBA history, it is a big deal in several other ways. One of which is that it keeps one of the best players in the NBA from hitting free agency after next season. It also keeps the Los Angeles Lakers from having to rebuild, at least for the time being.

That’s definitely a good thing because they struggled the last time they were forced to rebuild. Now, they’ll have an extra year with James and will have more time to prepare, but they might soon be out of two first-round draft picks. After all, he probably wouldn’t have agreed to an extension unless the Lakers promised to make a big trade to improve the team, and those picks are their best assets.

What does the contract extension mean for the Los Angeles Lakers and Lebron James?

The James extension could mean that the Lakers finally trade for Kyrie Irving by including Russell Westbrook and their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks in a deal. Or, a smaller deal could be incoming, possibly involving Buddy Hield and Myles Turner.  It’s far from a guarantee that either deal would help the Lakers make the playoffs, but extending James, who, at 37, is still a top-five player in the NBA, is obviously the right decision.

In fact, I expect he’s still going to be a great player in a couple of seasons, even despite his age. However, the Lakers gave James an out by making the second year of the two-year extension a player option. Had they not done so, they could’ve all but guaranteed that he’d retire as a Laker.

That would’ve ensured the team would at least be relevant, albeit probably still not very good. Of course, James wants to play with his son in the NBA, so he’s likely the one who pushed for the player option in 2024. That’s the same summer Bronny James is eligible to be drafted. In that case, the Lakers might’ve taken what they could get, and an extra year of James is absolutely better than starting a rebuild.

Then there’s the off chance that the Lakers will be able to right the ship, though they’re currently worse than last year’s team. If they can’t, then it wouldn’t be worth what the Lakers will likely give up in a trade to get James to agree to extend.

Next. Can the Los Angeles Lakers convince LeBron James to stay?. dark

Still, they have to try and make things work with James and Davis. Otherwise, they may have a tough time convincing other stars they can win with the Lakers, post-James.

Grade: B+