As much as LeBron James proves that he’s an ageless wonder, retirement is only a natural question to ask as he’s in his 19th season. James will play as long as he desires, but he’s in the backstretch of his career that will see him step away at some point in the coming years.
Over nearly the last two decades, the Los Angeles Lakers star has become the face of the league. James has elevated the product and popularity to greater heights, which he has fully embraced that massive responsibility. However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently admitted he isn’t ready for the day James retires.
LeBron James holds uncertain chapter of NBA career ahead
The Lakers’ frustrating 2021-22 campaign has shifted attention to James’ long-term future.
The four-time NBA champion is only under contract through next season, leading to questions regarding his plans after his 20th campaign. During All-Star weekend, James voiced that the door isn’t entirely closed on a return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Meanwhile, he aired that he wants to play his final year with his son Bronny James if he reaches the league.
“My last year will be played with my son,” James said via The Athletic‘s Jason Lloyd. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”
All that chatter has forced Adam Silver to begin coming to terms with an imminent that he isn’t ready to have about the star forward.
Adam Silver admits he’s not ready for LeBron James to retire
Since Adam Silver effectively took over as the NBA commissioner in February 2014 from David Stern, LeBron James has been the face of the league.
The four-time league MVP has served as the lone constant the NBA marketed the game around. As James moves through his 19th campaign, Silver voiced last week that he isn’t ready to think about the league without the 18-time All-Star.
“I want to be absolutely clear. I am not prepared to talk about the post-LeBron era,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Yahoo Sports recently. “And I don’t think it’s because I’m in denial. He won a championship less than a year and a half ago. From my standpoint, LeBron is still playing at the very highest level in the league.
“At some point, a new player or players will emerge, I think, [to] take that leadership mantle in the league. It seems they always do. I’m just not prepared, even in the slightest, to start thinking about the league without LeBron, because he continues to be as committed as ever to the competition, to the league overall.”
James isn’t retiring yet, but he’s certainly inching closer to stepping away from the game. He’s still performing at an elite level while holding the desire to play alongside his son for at least one year.
However, Silver should begin bracing for the day the 37-year-old stops playing. His reaction is only natural, given that James has sat in the spotlight for nearly two decades while helping elevate the league to greater heights. He’s used the elevated platform to lift the league and bring attention to various social issues and causes.
James is undoubtedly the league’s biggest star, and his eventual departure leaves a significant void for another star player to fill.
Stephen Curry will be the next of face of the NBA
As James nears closer to retirement, the NBA will need another player to carry the mantel as the face of the league.
Several notable names can take that responsibility, but the obvious choice is Stephen Curry. Outside of James, the Golden State Warriors star point guard is the league’s most recognizable player. He holds a squeaky clean image and reputation, while he’s intensely beloved by his peers and fans alike.
Curry voiced last year that he hopes to push his career to age 40, putting several more seasons ahead of him, health permitting. The three-time NBA champion is performing at the height of his game that should extend that further into his career. Beyond his stellar play, he possesses all the desired traits as a highly marketable player, outspoken, and respectful.
The NBA won’t be the same once James retires, but it will be in good hands with players like Curry stepping up to fill that massive void.