LeBron James signs 2-year, up to $104M contract to return to Lakers: sources

By Shams Charanis, Tess DeMeyer, Jovan Buha, and John Hollinger

LeBron James plans to sign a two-year, $104 million maximum contract to return to the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources confirmed Wednesday. He will have a player option next summer and a no-trade clause, sources said.

The Athletics It was previously reported that James planned to forgo his $51.4 million player option for next season.

It’s no secret that James and Anthony Davis both want significant improvements to the Lakers’ roster. According to agent Rich Paul, LeBron was even willing to take a significant pay cut to facilitate a valuable non-taxpayer midlevel exception signing. But that didn’t happen, and James ultimately agreed to a two-year max contract with a second-year player option, according to The Athletics Shams Charania.

With every hour that passes and every trade elsewhere, it becomes increasingly difficult to improve the Lakers’ roster.

Through three days of free agency — and, in fact, since last Wednesday, when they finally had access to three tradable draft picks — the Lakers haven’t made any significant moves other than re-signing Max Christie to a four-year, $32 million contract. And with the summer league just days away, they have yet to hire an assistant coaching staff centered around JJ Redick.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. The Lakers aggressively pursued Klay Thompson, but Thompson turned down their offer of more years and money from the Lakers to join the Dallas Mavericks, according to league sources. They’ve now turned their attention to DeMar DeRozan, though the Miami Heat are currently considered the slight favorite to land the 15-year veteran and six-time All-Star, according to league sources.

The Lakers have also been active in their trade market talks. The Athletics Earlier on Tuesday, it was reported that the Lakers recently held trade talks with Portland, Brooklyn and Utah, among others.

“I think we’re always going to be aggressive in trying to upgrade the roster and continue to look tirelessly at what we can do,” said vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka. “This is the season where we have to be mindful of all the different things we can do to improve the roster. So we’re in the thick of it as we speak. That’s going to continue over the next few days and often spills over into Vegas where all the GMs are meeting and making other deals. But we’re going to remain aggressive.”

James’ re-signing brings the Lakers’ roster to 15 players — the league maximum. The Lakers will get $190 million in guaranteed salary and $1.1 million over the $188.9 million second suspension, which would limit the team’s ability to make additional moves.

The new deal follows the news that James’ son Bronny, who was drafted 55th overall by the Lakers last month, has signed a four-year, $7.9 million rookie contract with the Lakers that includes a team option for the fourth season, league sources said.

LeBron has long expressed his desire to play with Bronny, 19, in the pros, saying the following: The Athletics in 2022: “My last year (in the NBA) I’ll be playing with my son.” The superstar forward changed that sentiment in 2023, telling ESPN that his goal would also be to play with Bronny “either in the same uniform or (in) a game against him.”

If it wasn’t already clear, the Lakers are going to have to cut some players and to do that, they may have to pay a team like the Pistons or Jazz with second-round picks.

Simply put, LA could trade Christian Wood and Cam Reddish to another team, re-sign Taurean Prince for up to $5.5 million and then have a 14-man roster that immediately steps onto the second platform.

However, to land a player like DeMar DeRozan with the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the Lakers would likely have to part with larger contracts — think Gabe Vincent, Rui Hachimura and/or D’Angelo Russell. Max Christie’s new deal, which adds an estimated $7.2 million to their payroll, remains a thorn in the Lakers’ side in that regard.

Due to a quirk in the NBA’s salary cap known as the “over-38 rule,” Los Angeles could not offer James, who turns 40 on Dec. 30, a contract of more than three years.

In his six years as a Laker, James has averaged 27.0 points per game in the regular season and collected 9,436 of his NBA-record 40,474 career regular season points. In his four postseason trips with Los Angeles, he has averaged 26.1 points per game and helped the Lakers to an NBA title in 2020.

The Lakers went 47-35 last season before being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the Denver Nuggets.

James is a 20-time All-Star, a four-time MVP and a four-time Finals MVP. This upcoming season will mark his seventh year with the franchise, tying his first seven years with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the longest consecutive stretch with a team in his career.

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(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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