Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James just wrapped up his 18th campaign, inching another step closer toward retirement. James doesn’t appear near that path, but it’s an expected discussion as he nears two decades in the league. With that in mind, longtime NBA insider Stephen A. Smith recently shared where he believes the future Hall of Famer will finish his career.
LeBron James finishes his third season with the Lakers
In only James’ second season with the Lakers, he led the franchise back to the mountaintop by securing an NBA title.
The 36-year-old, alongside the retooled roster, appeared primed for a second straight championship, but injuries derailed those lofty aspirations. Despite Anthony Davis suffering an Achilles-related ailment, James’ MVP-level play guided the Lakers to the Western Conference’s second-best record behind a 28-13 mark.
However, the 17-time All-Star saw his MVP chances hindered by a right high ankle sprain that forced him to miss nearly two months. Without either James or Davis, the Lakers slid down the standings, falling to the play-in tournament.
The four-time league MVP managed to return in early May but suffered a setback and only played the final three regular-season games. He remained a significant factor in the playoffs, but he appeared limited by his ankle as he didn’t display the same explosiveness or lift he possessed before the injury.
James admitted as much after the Game 6 loss to the Phoenix Suns that eliminated the Lakers from the playoffs. It marked the first time that he had suffered a first-round postseason exit.
As James heads into the offseason before his fourth campaign in Los Angeles, longtime NBA insider Stephen A. Smith voiced a definitive take concerning his future.
Stephen A. Smith believes he knows where LeBron James will finish his NBA career
James finished his 18th campaign, which draws greater attention toward how much longer he will play before stepping into retirement.
Before this season, he inked an extension that pushed his contract through the 2022-23 campaign. James holds complete control after his 20th season as he purposely left that option open. However, Smith voiced during a recent appearance on ESPN’s KJZ show that he believes the four-time league MVP will finish his career with the Lakers.
“I believe so,” Smith said. “I believe the only place he would ever go back to is Cleveland and I can’t see that happening. But I think this is it. Especially because Anthony Davis is here. LeBron has a lot to do with that. That’s the guy LeBron wanted.”
Los Angeles will continue to provide James the best chance to win another NBA title, especially playing alongside Davis. The front office will also construct a team that keeps that championship window open with a strong collective supporting cast.
James could have the desire to return to where his career started, but that scenario needs much to change for those pieces to fall in place. The only other situation that could pull him from Los Angeles is the opportunity to play alongside his son, LeBron James Jr.
It’s a possibility he’s touched upon after he inked his extension with the Lakers. Much can certainly change over the next two seasons, but the likelihood is that he finishes his illustrious career in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles holds pivotal summer ahead
Before James reaches that pivotal point, he holds the chance to compete for another NBA title next season.
The 36-year-old is entirely confident in his ability to recover from his ankle injury and the front office’s game plan for the roster. The Lakers have several significant roster decisions to make with key players such as Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Wesley Matthews heading into free agency.
Los Angeles will operate solely toward maximizing James’ championship window. In other words, the upcoming summer will be critical in pushing the franchise back toward NBA title contention.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.