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    LeBron James: ‘Not many’ seasons left, unsure if he’ll retire a Laker, reiterates Team USA commitment

    INDIANAPOLIS — Hours before his NBA record 20th consecutive start in an All-Star Game, 39-year-old LeBron James said there are “not that many” seasons left in his storied career.

    “I have not mapped out how many seasons I have left, I know it’s not that many,” said James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer who’s in his 21st season.

    James, who has a $51.4 million player’s option on his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers and has previously expressed a desire to play on the same team with his son, Bronny, who could enter the 2024 NBA Draft after his freshman season at USC, said, “I am a Laker, I am happy and have been very happy being a Laker these last six years, and hopefully it stays that way.”

    James’ latest comments come in the wake of what has become almost an annual tradition of him expressing mild dissatisfaction with the team he plays for at the trade deadline. This time, he posted to social media an hourglass emoji ahead of the deadline and declined to speculate on his contract status when asked last week.

    “I don’t have the answer to how long it is, or which uniform I’ll be in,” James said Sunday, talking about his potential retirement. “Hopefully it is the Lakers, it is a great organization, so many greats. I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it’s coming. It’s coming for sure.”

    James is averaging 24.8 points, his lowest since his rookie season decades ago, to go with 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game in 49 contests. He missed the Lakers’ last game on Wednesday with an ankle injury, but said he would play in the NBA’s 73rd All-Star Game on Sunday in Indianapolis.

    As James openly discussed the waning years of his career, which has spanned two stops in Cleveland, one in Miami, and the last six seasons with Los Angeles, resulting in four total titles and four NBA MVPs, he mentioned that he was “50-50” on announcing his final season ahead of time, so he could enjoy a farewell season like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, or retire more abruptly. “Tim Duncan-it,” is how James explained it.

    “There’s times where I feel like I guess I owe it to my fans who have been along this journey with me for two decades-plus, to be able to give them that moment, you know, where in every city they give you your flowers — and that seems cool,” James said. “The other side (is), I’ve never been that great with accepting my praise. It’s so weird for me.

    “I never really talked about it much, for me, going to every city if that’s the case … I don’t know how I would feel. I don’t know if I would feel great about it. Maybe it’s the only child in me.”

    James also reiterated his commitment to Team USA for the Paris Olympics this summer, but admitted that his health will, predictably, play a part in whether he’ll be able to play a pivotal part in what would be his fourth Games.

    “As it stands right now, I am healthy enough to be on the team and perform at that level that I know I could perform at,” James said. “But like you said, there’s still time left in the season, still a third left in the regular season. So I don’t know what the future holds as far as (the) postseason, whatever the case may be.

    “It’s more miles put on these tires, you know? But if I’m committed, which I am, to Team USA, then I’m gonna commit my mind, body and soul to being out there for Team USA, being out there to represent our country with the utmost respect and going out to play.”

    As The Athletic first reported in mid-September, James has been a lead recruiter for this 2024 team that is widely expected to boast serious star power. With fellow stars like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Davis and many more also part of the program’s 41-player pool that will eventually be trimmed to 12, he knows there should be no shortage of elite help.

    “The one thing that I know for sure (is that) I don’t have to carry the load,” said James, who has two gold medals and a bronze. “I’ve never had to carry a load on any one of the three teams that I’ve been on — whether the ’04 team, the ’08 team and the ’12 team. I’m just trying to implement what I do best, and be as great as I can be out there on the floor when I’m out there.

    “I’m not sure obviously right now what the full team is gonna look like, but from some of the names, I know I don’t have to feel any pressure going out there and feel like I’ve got to carry the team. It’s gonna be a full 12-man roster that’s capable of doing it both offensively and defensively, on any given night, versus any country in the world.”


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    (Photo: James Boyd / The Athletic)



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