Family at center of LeBron’s Lakers contract extension decision

Family at center of LeBron’s Lakers contract extension decision

LeBron James has been in the media spotlight and on the cover of Sports Illustrated as “The Chosen One” since he was in high school. Comfortable in that harsh light, he’s a master news broadcaster – choreographing everything he says, every Instagram post, to project the image and message he wants out into the world. Nothing is an accident.

What was the message LeBron could offer the day before the Lakers were able to offer him a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension — and later on Thursday — that would see him in purple and gold until the age of 40 would hold? He trained with his sons, Bronny and Bryce, at the Lakers’ practice center.

The post is another in a long line this summer highlighting just how much family means to LeBron, and it shows how deeply rooted he and his family are in Los Angeles.

Family appears to be the biggest factor in LeBron James’ decision to sign an extension with the Lakers, which he can officially do today (Thursday, August 4).

LeBron has a long history of using short-term contracts to get what he wants from an organization, and these Lakers, as constructed, are not title contenders. Russell Westbrook’s trading situation is hanging over the team, as is whether they will use their two tradable first-round picks — 2027 and 2029, the last picks they can trade this decade — to make significant changes to the roster. The Lakers fired their head coach, brought in a new one, and revamped the roleplaying roster to get more athleticism and shooting, but that’s only going to get this team so far. Would LeBron signing an overtime make the Lakers more likely to use future picks to bolster the current team? Maybe.

That’s all business. At the end of the day, LeBron puts family first — and his family is comfortable in Los Angeles.

Because of this, most people NBC Sports spoke to at the league expect LeBron to sign overtime in some form. Ultimately. He can certainly milk the leverage to send a message about roster changes — although it’s not as if Rob Pelinka and his company haven’t tried to trade Westbrook — but in the end, LeBron doesn’t give off the vibe of a man who loves Los Angeles want to lock.

At least until his son Bronny becomes NBA draft eligible in two years. LeBron has made it clear that he wants to play a season with his son. It’s the one thing everyone thinks they’d leave Los Angeles for. Perhaps the Lakers would use their 2024 first-round pick to pick Bronny and have the family train at their practice facility, except the Lakers don’t control that pick. The Pelicans make the Anthony Davis trade. As Joe Varden laid out well on The Athletic this week, the Pelicans have the option of using that pick from 2024 or moving it to 2025 and letting the Lakers pick 2024. It’s obviously way too early for anyone to make that call. (Also how good an NBA prospect Bronny is remains debatable, many scouts don’t have him in the first round if he gets drafted at all. But if Bronny is picked, a team also gets the big box office that LeBron is for a season , the calculus changes.)

LeBron has three options with the Lakers’ renewal offer (which would extend years beyond next season, where LeBron will earn $44.5 million with Los Angeles):

1) Ignore it, don’t sign it and become a free agent next summer.
2) Sign it for the full two years and lock yourself up with the Lakers until age 40.
3) Sign for an additional year or a year with a second year player option (a 1+1).

Option 3 keeps LeBron in Los Angeles but with flexibility if and when Bronny enters the NBA in another market. Most sources in the league spoke to NBC expecting LeBron will go for option three – a 1+1 – but that he will take his time signing them. There is no rush (the extension can be signed until next June). And if that keeps the pressure on the Lakers to improve the roster, all the better.

If LeBron takes his time with the extension, there will be speculation on social media. Welcome to the modern NBA. Talk of LeBron returning to Cleveland will increase. But LeBron will keep his eye on what’s important to him. And that’s family.

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