LeBron James’ champagne days with the Lakers are likely over, so what does his future hold?

james lebronLongevity and production make him a rarity.

James had a fantastic season: 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks and shot 52.4% from the field and 35.9% on 3 points .

It’s been a great year for a player of any age, and it’s impossible to find a better season for a player who turned 37 and was in his 19th season.

He challenged for the scoring title but did not finish with enough games played to qualify. Yet no player – no matter how many games played let alone 50 and over – averages 30 or more points at that age.

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James will likely expand his league-record All-NBA selections to 18 – three more than Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan.

Lakers forward LeBron James (6) has been challenged for the NBA scoring title, a rare feat for a player in his 19th season.

Lakers forward LeBron James (6) has been challenged for the NBA scoring title, a rare feat for a player in his 19th season.

James’ season officially ended last week when he played his last games of the season before the The Lakers ruled him out for the last two games with a sprained left ankle. The Lakers’ season ended Sunday with a 146-141 overtime win over the Denver nuggets in a disappointing season that ended without a playoff appearance – the second time in James’ four seasons with the Lakers that they did not make the playoffs.

James’ tenure in the Lakers has been uneven — no playoffs, championship, first-round exit, no playoffs.

What’s next for James?

James has one year and $44.4 million left on his contract, which will see him through the 2022-23 season. He can become a free agent after next season or he can sign a two-year extension this summer.

Without a doubt, James can still be a vital player in a quality Championship side, and there’s no doubt that James still wants to win.

“I appreciate it and I love you all!” James tweeted after it was announced that his season was over. “I wish it had been done in a winning way! I gave it my all this season when I was on the court! We’ll see you again in the fall.

But how much can he earn with the Lakers next season, and will it be enough for James to have an OK team that is not in contention for the title at this stage of his career?

There are several answers.

Championships are always better than no championships. A player prefers to play on a team that can struggle, and James wants the Lakers to revamp and improve the roster. This will be difficult given the lack of flexibility in the composition of the salary cap (James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis will eat $129.45 million next season), and while James had a great season in 2020-21 and 2021-22, he also missed a third of the games in both seasons. Its durability is no longer acquired.

Most Lakers & # 39;  the salary cap next season will be tied to Anthony Davis (left), Russell Westbrook (center) and LeBron James (right).

The bulk of the Lakers’ salary cap next season will be tied to Anthony Davis (left), Russell Westbrook (center) and LeBron James (right).

James also at the end of the season – when the Lakers’ playoff chances were dwindling – indicated that he was “having the time of his life right now. The game is such a beautiful thing.”

He wasn’t worried about stories about himself or the Lakers. “None of that matters. I have a lot of fun playing basketball,” he said.

From these comments, it looks like he can be satisfied as long as the loss isn’t too bad. James has four titles, four Finals MVPs, four MVPs, NBA records in All-Star appearances and All-NBA selections, is the only player with 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists and is expected to surpass Kareem Abdul -Jabbar as a league player. top scorer time next season.

Not winning another title will do nothing to his legacy. He’s in the conversation as the game’s greatest player of all time. As he previously suggested, he doesn’t believe he has anything to prove.

So James has at least one more season with the Lakers. Will there be more than one more? You can try reading what James said or didn’t say or what he did or didn’t do in the past to find answers. There is a whole cottage industry based on reading James’ tea leaves. Even then, the clues can be misleading.

When James realized his Cleveland and Miami teams had exhausted their championship possibilities, he fled – to a team where he thought he could win a title. What if next season reflected the end of his team at Cleveland 1.0, Miami and Cleveland 2.0?

Of course, James could leave. But not all circumstances are equal. By all accounts, James is happy living in Southern California. A lot of his non-basketball business is there, and lifestyle is a big factor in where someone works. There’s worse than making $45 million a year, living in Los Angeles and playing for a mediocre basketball team.

And yet, what if there is an attraction to win another title? Could he leave the Lakers for another team? Could he sign with Phoenix – a short flight to and from Los Angeles – a minimum contract to try to win a title with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and the Suns? It seems unlikely, but you never know.

James recently said on his HBO show “The Shop” that he would love to play alongside Steph Curry and reiterated his wish to play alongside his son Bronny James, who will be draft eligible in 2024.

There are multiple possibilities ahead of him, and James probably doesn’t even know what his basketball career will look like in two or three years. But it says enough to keep a range of possibilities open and stoke the intrigue.

James redefined free agency, starting with his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010 and Miami for Cleveland in 2014 and Cleveland for Los Angeles in 2018.

At the end of his career, at nearly 40 years old, James’ future will once again impact the NBA with his career choice.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LeBron James, Lakers: Title chances fade, can star be satisfied in Los Angeles?

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