LeBron James’ next deal, and every contract option with the Lakers or another team

As far as basketball settings go, it was hard to top the buzz Saturday night inside Crypto.com Arena.

LeBron James, on the brink of becoming the first player in NBA history to reach the 40,000-point plateau, arrived hours before his Los Angeles Lakers tipped off at home against the Denver Nuggets.

  • Entertainment industry impresarios such as Jeffrey Katzenberg, Peter Berg, Byron Allen and Lemuel Plummer filed in through the VIP entrance. Stars from film and sports — Kate Hudson and Dyan Cannon, Novak Djokovic and Magic Johnson — dotted the stands.
  • Even James himself was flanked by a documentary crew banking footage for his upcoming Netflix series.
  • During a break in the action midway through the second quarter — LeBron had scored the ninth point he needed to make history a few minutes earlier — James winked in the direction of Lakers governor Jeanie Buss, located in her second-row seat across from the home bench. It was a custom the two shared during his first couple seasons in L.A. that James dusted off for the historic night.

And, after the game, the Lakers commemorated the moment on their theater-style marquee in the player tunnel: 1st NBA Player Ever. Congrats LeBron James. 40,000 Points Scored.

  • James, who has privately questioned whether Laker Nation would ever fully embrace him after seeing him battle their beloved Kobe Bryant for so long, acknowledged the way the fans and the franchise showed up for him.
  • “Much respect and much loyalty to the Laker fan base for showing me that love,” James said. “Being the first player to do something, that’s pretty cool in this league.”
  • LeBron James stands under the marquee sign in the tunnel of Crypto.com Arena commemorating his latest career achievement. Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

 

  • The Lakers and James can pair on another first this offseason. Should he agree to a new, multiyear contract, L.A. will be guaranteed to be the first and only team that James will have played eight consecutive seasons with, eclipsing the seven-year start to his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
  • As rocky as James’ relationship with the Lakers has appeared at times, it’s hard to imagine any other franchise providing the elements that aligned Saturday night in L.A.
  • But James, nearing 40 years old and in his 21st season, has options as he approaches free agency for the fifth — and perhaps final — time in his career.

The next contract

  • James has made more than $482 million in salary in his career and will become the first player in NBA history to pass the $500 million mark next season, by either opting in to his $51.4 million salary, signing a new contract with the Lakers or, in a less likely scenario, signing with another team.
  • James said Feb. 3 that he has not yet made a decision on his player option. He has until June 29 to decide to opt in or become a free agent.
  • Because of the over-38 rule, no team, including the Lakers, can offer James a contract for more than three seasons if he elects to become a free agent. That restriction should not matter; of the past six contracts James has signed, five have been for three years or less.
  • Those short-term deals have limited the total value of James’ recent contracts, meaning a new three-year maximum deal — either for $162 million with the Lakers or for $157 million with another team — would represent the largest total contract in James’ career, eclipsing the $154 million, four-year deal he signed with the Lakers in 2018.
  • James could follow the path from prior years and sign an even shorter deal with the Lakers. A two-year, $104 million contract with a player option on the second season would allow James to hit free agency again next summer — perhaps when his son, USC freshman guard Bronny James, enters the 2025 NBA draft.

 

  • “It’s up to him, it’s up to the kid,” James told Turner Sports on Feb. 18, referring to Bronny declaring for the 2024 NBA draft. “We’re going to go through the whole process. He’s still in-season now. He has the Pac-12 tournament coming up. … We’re going to weigh all options and we’re going to let the kid make the decision.”
  • The early entry deadline to declare for the 2024 draft is April 27 at 11:59 p.m. ET. If Bronny did declare, he would have until May 31 at 11:59 p.m. ET. to withdraw his name. He did not appear in ESPN’s latest 2024 mock draft and is projected to go 39th in ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony’s 2025 mock draft.
  • “I don’t value a young player getting into the lottery as much as I do getting him on the right team in the right developmental situation,” Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday, regarding Bronny’s status for the upcoming draft.
  • The Lakers can also offer something no team can — a true no-trade clause. Players are only eligible to negotiate a no-trade clause if they’ve been in the league for at least eight years and have played four years for the team offering the contract. No-trade clauses can’t be added to extensions, which is why James wasn’t eligible to add one when he signed his latest extension in 2022. (Phoenix Suns guard Bradley Beal is the only NBA player who currently has a no-trade clause.)

If James opts in to his contract, he would be eligible to sign a two-year, $112 million extension with the Lakers starting Aug. 18. It would be his third time extending with Los Angeles since he initially signed in 2018.