LeBron James’ heavy Lakers extension is about winning, not winning games


By extending his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, james lebron likely committed to a level of short-term professional mediocrity that seems counterintuitive for an ambitious all-time superstar determined to overtake Michael Jordan as the game’s greatest player.

Championships, we know, are the coin of the kingdom for the few basketball royalty like King James exceptional enough to vie for the moniker Greatest Of All Time. And LA, we also know, is clearly ill-equipped to offer its new superstar a chance to win another ring this year, or in the additional year or two in which he will now continue as a Laker.

But the extension — which locks LeBron in Los Angeles for at least another year, until the 2023-24 season, and which sources have confirmed to CBS Sports includes this third-year player option for 2024-25 — is a perfect match. at the fascinating place LeBron has reached in his career: both a great end to the road enjoying the quality of life and personal perks that come with living in Los Angeles, and a sly strategic nod to his goal of career to beat Jordan in the public eye.

The strategy behind this new deal is equal parts personal versus professional and long-term branding, and both point to a more subtle, older version of James. He traded “not two, not three, not four” for future quality NBA time with his son, and the need to collect rings in GOAT’s pursuit of something now more interesting and subtle.

Let’s start with the staff.

Members of the Lakers organization never doubted it would happen, pointing to the fact that, well, LeBron loves his life in Los Angeles. He is happy there. He is happy. And while, yes, Russell Westbrook is the totem for the problems plaguing the basketball side, there is a life beyond work, something new and fascinating about one of the most driven and ambitious players in basketball history. NBA.

That there is life beyond work is true for me. True for you. True for the richest and the poorest and the most and least motivated among us. This deal – with player option being key here – sees LeBron James out of the Lakers in the summer of 2024 if, as expected, his eldest son Bronny James enters the roster. NBA Draft.

That, too, is a quality-of-life factor that’s much more about happiness than competitiveness, and a longstanding LeBron goal that highlights his priorities — happiness over winning, in its most blatant but true.

LeBron loves LA. He loves his life there. He wants to play in the league with his son. And this deal offers all of that to him and, no, Lakers fans — in no way — does this extension signify LeBron’s belief that the Lakers can or even will win championships over the next two or three years. They almost certainly won’t. They are not well built or well positioned. And that is not likely to change.

Which brings us to the second point, and the reminder that human beings are complicated, and that two things can be true at the same time. In that case, that LeBron prioritizes his quality of life and his family over his career, and that staying in LA also has long-term strategic benefits for his lifelong obsession with convincing the world that he is the GOAT.

GOAT debates are fun and interesting, and worth our time, despite the fact that former athletes claim to hate this kind of talk. Privately, at least, they tend to like him as much as the rest of us.) But unlike how those debates tend to rage, there’s no safe calculation before deciding on Jordan. > LeBron, or LeBron > Jordan, or Steph > LeBron, or Kareem > all.

Deciding on the best NBA player of all time is more art than science. It’s philosophy, not vote counting. It’s alchemy rather than a safe checklist.

LeBron knows it. He knows he has to be historically notable, and he’s well on his way to ticking the final boxes. He knows he has to win a lot of championships and yes, Jordan fans, four is enough. But he also understands that there are pop culture factors (“Be Like Mike” certainly didn’t hurt Jordan) and other accomplishments along the way that can change public opinion.

You have to win games and rings, of course, but you also have to win hearts and minds.

And for LeBron, who is just 1,326 points away from passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, this record is a key way to get there. LeBron is expected to overtake Kareem next season, but this extension ensures that neither injury nor an off-year will prevent him from doing so as a Laker.

Think about it. Establishing that brand as the Los Angeles Laker has a lot more staying power — brand impact, wow factor, long-term Q-rating booster, call it what you like — than doing it anywhere else. The purple and gold are iconic, and LeBron made sure he will make history dressed in the colors most likely to increase the power and effect of the point no. 38,388.

Consider how many of the sport’s all-time greats were Lakers. These superstars were larger than life, and their names come off the tongue more like myths than men: Kareem. Magic. Kobe. Each. The logo. LeBron fits into the pantheon of these players.

Being the all-time leading scorer is now front and center for LeBron, because that record is at least as important in the long run as, say, going to Cleveland for the third time and maybe — maybe a lot — winning. a fifth championship.

Two rings are out of reach. Kareem’s record is not. So might as well do it as a Laker.

If that sounds overly thoughtful and half-baked, well, I can tell you that’s what many close to LeBron think. He is now as much a business as a gamer, and the narrative and legacy of his brand are obsessive topics for those tasked with protecting it.

So this deal with the Lakers isn’t about winning, at least not about games. This is – as unlikely as it may seem – the start of LeBron James’ long farewell tour.

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