LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James (pic below, AP) has agreed to a two-year, USD85 million contract extension through the 2022-23 season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, confirmed the deal on Wednesday during the first week of training camp for the NBA champions. The Lakers are still finalising their new contract with big man Anthony Davis, who is also represented by Paul.
James is getting the maximum deal to extend his tenure in Los Angeles, where he moved two seasons ago after his second stint with his hometown Cavaliers. Davis and James teamed up last season and won the Lakers’ 17th championship in the bubble in central Florida.
James’ previous contract ran through the upcoming season with a player option for 2021-22, allowing the third-leading scorer in league history to become a free agent next summer if he chose. Instead, James has committed to play through his 20th NBA season with the Lakers, where he moved in 2018 after title-winning tenures in Cleveland and Miami.
James turns 36 in four weeks, but the 16-time All-Star’s level of play hasn’t dipped even slightly after 17 seasons in the league. James averaged 25.3 points and led the NBA with 10.2 assists per game last season before winning the NBA Finals MVP award in October while beating the Miami Heat in six games.
The Lakers are returning this winter with a roster that looks even better than last season’s group on paper, with veterans Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews joining the rotation around James and Davis.
James will make more than USD39 million this season, more than USD41 million next season and more than USD44 million in the final year of his new deal, during which he will turn 38.
The Lakers have a history of rewarding superstars in their later seasons, allowing them to finish with the franchise rather than forcing Lakers icons to make difficult decisions about how they will wrap up their careers.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Kobe Bryant all finished their Hall of Fame careers with the Lakers rather than making a late money-grabbing pit stop with another team.
Los Angeles famously gave a two-year, USD48.5-million extension to Bryant when he was 35 years old in November 2013. The deal was criticised at the time for its largesse compared to Bryant’s diminishing dominance, but owners Jeanie and Jim Buss felt the contract was an appropriate reward for Bryant’s contributions to the franchise.
The new deal for James currently carries none of those concerns, because he is still a matchless player even after spending half of his life in the professional basketball and reaching nine of the last 10 NBA Finals while becoming the league’s leading scorer in post-season history.