LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers fell well short of repeating as NBA champions. The disappointing playoff exit sets up a critical offseason. Amid the expected changes, James is prepared to make a notable move ahead of his fourth campaign in Los Angeles.
LeBron James wraps up his third year with the Lakers
James’ decision to join the Lakers completely shifted the dynamic toward NBA title contention.
His first season didn’t transpire anywhere near that, missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. It all shifted into high gear before the 2019-20 season as the Lakers acquired star big man Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans.
James and Davis quickly meshed well together, leading the Lakers to the Western Conference top playoff seed for the first time in a decade. The duo followed that with an impressive run through the playoffs earning the NBA title. James garnered his fourth championship and fourth NBA Finals MVP award.
The Lakers front office revamped the roster, hoping to make a strong bid toward a second straight title. However, the team struggled with injuries and inconsistent play that led to a disappointing first-round playoff exit. It marked the first time in James’ career that he failed to get past the opening round.
The 36-year-old struggled to regain his MVP form after returning from a high right ankle sprain. Meanwhile, Davis’ groin injury put the nail in the coffin for the Lakers’ championship hopes. With the playoff shortcomings now in the rearview mirror, James is ready to make one notable change next season.
LeBron James will finally get his wish granted by the Lakers
Before Davis played his first game with the Lakers, James attempted to switch numbers from 23 to 6 to allow the fellow star forward to wear it.
However, Nike prevented the four-time league MVP from venturing that route over the last two years. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, James will finally get his wish granted as he will get to don No. 6 for the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile, Davis will stay with No. 3, which he wore in his first two seasons with Los Angeles. The star big man chose the number due to wearing it back in high school. He wore No. 23 throughout his seven years with the Pelicans and his lone collegiate season at Kentucky.
James last wore the No. 6 during his four-year stint with the Miami Heat, where he won a pair of championships in four NBA finals appearances. He also used the number with the United States Men’s National Basketball Team, where he helped lead the team to two Gold Medals in 2008 and 2012. These are the only two numbers he donned throughout his nearly two-decade career.
Beyond that, it’s an opportunity for the Lakers to make more merchandise and sell plenty of James’ jerseys that will undoubtedly be a league top seller.
Future remains tied to Los Angeles through 2023
Before James embarked on his third year with the Lakers, he chose to ink a two-year extension that lengthened his tenure through his 20th season.
The four-time league MVP initially had a fourth-year player option in the four-year, $153.3 million contract that he signed to join Los Angeles in July 2018. His NBA future is locked in for the next couple of seasons, but it after that remains a mystery.
James purposely went that route to leave his options open. He has repeatedly hinted at a strong desire to play alongside his son LeBron James Jr., who could become eligible for the 2023 NBA draft. It also shouldn’t rule out the possibility he signs another contract to stay with the Lakers.
Heat president Pat Riley recently voiced that the Heat would welcome back James if he wanted to return. It didn’t take long for the NBA to levy down a $25,000 fine for his comments.
Nonetheless, James will have every option available to him once his current Lakers’ deal expires in 2023.