LeBron: Goal Still To Compete For Championships

LeBron James will turn 38 years old on Friday, but he continues to play at an All-NBA level, averaging 27.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists in 27 games (35.7 MPG) so far this season. He’s on track to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer sometime later this winter.

From a team perspective, however, 2022 has been perhaps James’ worst year as a pro. After missing the playoffs in the spring, the Lakers are off to a 14-21 start this season and currently rank 13th in the West.

Following Los Angeles’ loss to Miami on Wednesday night, James reflected on where his career stands and his goals going forward, telling reporters – including Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press – that he feels like he has plenty left in the tank from a physical perspective.

“I don’t have a number,” James said, when asked how many more seasons he might play. “I know as long as my mind stays in it, I can play at this level for a minute. Now, that’s up to my mind. My body is going to be OK because if my mind is into it, I will make sure my body is taken care of and I’ll continue to put in the work.”

What will it take for LeBron’s mind to remain focused on basketball for the next few years? He suggested that he’d want his team(s) to be more competitive than the Lakers have been this season.

“I don’t want to finish my career playing at this level, from a team aspect,” James said. “I want to still be able to compete for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ballclub with the right pieces.

“… I’m a winner. And I want to win. I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships. … Playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball, it’s not in my DNA. It’s not in my DNA anymore. So, we’ll see what happens. We’ll see how fresh my mind stays over the next couple of years.”

James is under contract with L.A. through at least the 2023/24 season, with a player option for ’24/25, so he won’t have the ability to leave the team as a free agent this summer — he also hasn’t shown the desire to do so, even if he could. His comments seem intended more to keep the pressure on the Lakers’ front office to make the sort of moves that could get the team back to title contention.

Reports in recent months have repeatedly suggested that the Lakers don’t intend to make a trade involving their tradable 2027 and 2029 first-round picks unless there’s a deal they believe makes them a legitimate championship threat. Thus far, that deal hasn’t materialized, and with Anthony Davis sidelined for the foreseeable future due to a foot injury, Rob Pelinka and his group appear less inclined to go all-in this season.

With Russell Westbrook‘s massive contract coming off the books at the end of the 2022/23 season, James may have to wait until the ’23 offseason for the Lakers to make major roster changes.

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