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NBA All-Star Weekend: LeBron James hopes to end his career with the Lakers

NBA All-Star Weekend: LeBron James hopes to end his career with the Lakers

INDIANAPOLIS — Lakers legend LeBron James did not directly address the report that he declined an opportunity to join Stephen Curry‘s Golden State Warriors during a 15-minute news conference in the hours before Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, but he did declare he would like to end his career in Los Angeles.

“I am a Laker, and I’ve been very happy being a Laker the last six years, and hopefully it stays that way,” said James, about to make a record-breaking 20th appearance in the exhibition. “I don’t have the answer to how long it will be or what uniform I’ll be wearing. Hopefully, it is with the Lakers. It’s a great organization with so many greats. We’ll see. I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it’s coming. It’s coming, for sure.”

How soon remains to be seen for the 39-year-old. James holds a $51.4 million player option to return to the Lakers next season. He could decline that deal and re-sign in Los Angeles or enter unrestricted free agency.

“I have not mapped out how many seasons I have left,” said James. “I know it’s not that many.”

James is also unsure if he will want to end his career with a farewell tour or, as he said, “just Tim Duncan it.” The reason may surprise you from someone who’s been the face of the league for much of his 21 seasons.

“I’m 50-50,” he said. “I’m going to be honest. There are times I feel like I owe it to my fans who have been along this journey for two decades-plus, to be able to give them that moment, where it’s every city, and they give you your flowers or whatever the case may be. That seems cool, but the other side: I’ve never been that great with accepting praise. It’s a weird feeling for me. I’ve never really talked about it much.

“It’s just a weird feeling for me,” he added in a rare moment of vulnerability. “To go to each city, if that’s the case — I’ve seen Michael [Jordan]’s, I’ve seen Kobe [Bryant]’s, I’ve seen a lot of guys’ [farewell tour] — I just don’t know how I’d feel. I don’t know if I’d feel great about it. Maybe the only child in me. I don’t know.”

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 18: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Western Conference All-Stars speaks to the media prior to the 2024 NBA All-Star Game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on February 18, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

LeBron James speaks during a news conference before the NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

James rested the final game before the All-Star break with peroneal tendinopathy in his left ankle. He has received treatment in recent days and will participate on Sunday, but said, “I won’t be playing the entire game.”

“I’m trying to get my ankle as strong and back to where I feel confident I can finish these last 30 games of the season,” said James, whose Lakers (30-26) are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference. “I’ll get out there and run around with the young guys for a little bit, and then shut it down at some point to give my ankle another opportunity to rest. I’m seeking some more treatment tomorrow and going into this week, because we don’t play until the end of the week. I’ll see how that goes, but the most important thing for me is definitely my health. … I’m trying to do what’s best for me and the betterment of the team.”

James hinted at retirement when his Lakers lost to the eventual champion Denver Nuggets in last season’s Western Conference finals. Now, he plans to follow this season with a fourth appearance in the Olympics.

“I told myself before the season when I committed to being a part of the Olympic team, obviously it was all predicated on my health,” he said. “As it stands right now, I’m healthy enough to be on the team and perform at a level I know I can perform. There’s still time left in the season. Obviously, I don’t know what the future holds as far as the postseason.

“[The Olympics] is 11 games, but it is 5 1/2 weeks, and it’s more miles put on these tires. If I’m committed, which I am, to Team USA, then I’m going to commit my mind, body and soul to being out there for Team USA, being out there representing our country with the utmost respect.”

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