Lakers’ LeBron James confirms return for 21st NBA season

Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer July 12, 2023, 11:31 PM ET

CloseLakers and NBA reporter for ESPN. Covers the Lakers and NBA for from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for and the NBA for from 2005-09.

There’s still time left for LeBron James’ career.

The Lakers star announced Wednesday night at ESPYS in Los Angeles that he will continue to play.

James publicly considered retirement following the Lakers’ playoff upset by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, but he will become just the sixth player in NBA history to play in 21 or more seasons — joining Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis. and Vince Carter, who has a record with 22.

“I don’t care how many more points I score or what I can or can’t do on the court,” James said after receiving the ESPY award for Best Record-breaking Performance for overtaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leader. scorer. “The real question for me is: Can I play without copying this game? The day I can’t give my all on the court is the day I will finish. Luckily for you guys, that day isn’t today.”

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James was presented with the award by his wife, Savannah, who was accompanied by their three children: 18-year-old Bronny, 16-year-old Bryce and 8-year-old Zhuri.

“Welcome to the stage, GOAT, with respect, LeBron James,” said Savannah.

James, 38, took the opportunity to reflect on how his children have fueled his passion for basketball.

Bronny will be a freshman on the USC men’s basketball team in the fall. Bryce transferred to Campbell Hall High School, where he would play his junior season. James recently coached Bryce’s AAU team, Strive For Greatness, at the Peach Jam tournament in South Carolina.

“Tonight, I want to take this moment to say something I have said a million times and I will never get tired of talking about it: I love this game. I love the game of basketball,” James said. “There’s a video going around right now on the internet of me coaching Bryce’s team last weekend, and it’s actually quite funny. I see a lot of posts with people going, ‘LeBron brings energy to high school AAU games in the same way he would for Final match.’ And to me, that is the highest compliment.

“In my 20 years of playing this game and all the years before, I have never cheated this game, and I will never take it for granted.”

With Dwyane Wade’s former team-mates Carmelo Anthony and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in attendance Wednesday night, James detailed the dedication to the sport that has propelled him into the national spotlight for more than two decades.

“Every time I set foot, whether coaching my boys or playing, I wanted to give it my all. I did it for myself,” said James. “I did it for some of my teammates that I’ve had before and I do now. And I did it for all the great people who came before me. And more importantly — or most importantly — I did it for the fans, the lovers of the game.

“Look, you can love me – and I know some of you hate me too – but one thing you will always do is respect me and appreciate the way I approach the game and what I have given this game.”

“The real question for me is: Can I play without cheating this game? The day I can’t give my all on the court is the day I’m done,” LeBron James said in a speech Wednesday night, before adding, “Luckily for you guys, today is not today.” Kevin Mazur/Getty’s image

James explained his mindset when, after scoring 40 points and playing 48 minutes in the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to the Nuggets, he told ESPN he had to think “if I want to keep playing.”

“When the season ended I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep playing,” said James. “And I know a lot of experts tell you guys what I said, but I’m here now speaking for myself. At that point, I asked myself if I could still play without cheating a game – can I give my all for a game still ? Actually, I’ve been asking myself this question at the end of a season for a few years now. I just never talk about it openly.”

James also continued to distance himself from his former desire to play on the same NBA team as one or both of his sons, saying, “They are on their own basketball journey, and no matter how far they choose to go, they are not rigging the game.” And that inspires me.”

In short, the King will return.

“You know what makes me come back every year? Watching and coaching my boys and their teammates,” he said. “I saw the kids, and it took me back to why I played. The kids took me back to where I wanted to be, just pure love of the beautiful game.

“So, yeah, I still have something left. A lot left. I love you all, and thank you so much for watching this journey so far.”

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