Betting on Next Year for LeBron James

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On Monday night, the big story around LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers was their sweeping exit from the NBA Playoffs. They had just lost their fourth straight game to the Denver Nuggets, ending their season. For Denver, that means a trip to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

By Tuesday, the story had changed. We were no longer talking about the end of L.A.’s 2022-2023 season, but had shifted to the possible end of an all-time great career. It was James himself who used the word “retirement,” and basketball writers everywhere ran with it.

As did bookmakers.

Will LeBron James Retire Before Next Season?

Yes (+550)

No (-1000)

Bookmakers heard James mention that retirement was on the table, but they’ve also been listening to him the rest of this season. He has expressed a desire to play at least one season with his son, Bronny, who is still two seasons away from being eligible for the NBA.

That makes “No” the overwhelming betting favorite on At -1000, a bet on “No” comes with an implied probability of 90.91%. The chance of LeBron James walking away from basketball this summer is quite low.

LeBron James’ Next Team (If Not the Lakers) also has a full list of odds on the possible next team for James, should he decide to leave the Lakers after five seasons in Los Angeles. His contract contains a player option, so the decision is his.

Philadelphia 76ers (+300)

New York Knicks (+300)

Los Angeles Clippers (+500)

Cleveland Cavaliers (+700)

Phoenix Suns (+800)

Golden State Warriors (+900)

Miami Heat (+1000)

Dallas Mavericks (+1000)

Sacramento Kings (+1200)

Milwaukee Bucks (+1800)

Chicago Bulls (+2000)

Boston Celtics (+2500)

James is the highest-paid American athlete, and he is the first active athlete to be certified as a billionaire by Forbes. His 53 million social media followers is the most of any American athlete, and a lot of that popularity and wealth is tied in to being with a global brand like the Lakers.

That makes the New York Knicks an interesting option, as well as the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are one of the least successful franchises in NBA history. But it is still L.A., and the stardom of James will bring out the celebrities. It would also keep James close to his entertainment development and production firm, SpringHill Company, headquartered in Hollywood.

Seeing James in a Knicks uniform playing at Madison Square Garden in the City That Never Sleeps would also be appealing. If he can make it there, James will have made it everywhere. He’s won in the Midwest (Cleveland), the Southeast (Miami), and the West Coast (Los Angeles). Bringing an NBA championship to New York for the first time in 50 years, and in front of superfan Spike Lee, has to be appealing.

Two other very intriguing options on this list are a return to his hometown, Cleveland, and the possibility of playing for Golden State.

James has had two runs with the Cavaliers, the second resulting in an NBA Finals win, and he grew up in nearby Akron. Finishing his career where it all started, and having his son join him there for one final season, sounds like the script to a movie. And the Cavs would move heaven and earth to make it happen for their favorite basketball son.

As for a possible season or two with the Golden State Warriors, James has said in the past that the one NBA player he would truly like to play with is Stephen Curry. From a basketball standpoint, it makes sense.

At 35-years-old, Curry is still one of the great scorers in the league, and as a teammate, Curry would take away some of the on-ball pressure that James has had with the Lakers. Making James a compliment to Curry, and not always the first option, would likely extend his career. 

James is also very good friends with fellow Warrior Draymond Green, and last year, James attended Green’s wedding. To team up Curry and Green and take the Warriors to one last title before they all retire from basketball would be quite the finish to his all-time career.

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