Even when James shouldn’t be retiring, he’s just 1,325 points behind Abdul-Jabbar for first on the N.B.A.’s profession scoring list, giving the Lakers a chance to money in on that chase through apparel and other such sales. James has scored not less than that many points in every season except 2020-21, when he played in only 45 games due to injuries. (The season was shortened by 10 games, to 72, due to coronavirus pandemic.)
Non-basketball aspects make up “a small percentage” of decision making on contracts, said Rod Thorn, a former N.B.A. front office executive, who drafted Jordan with the Chicago Bulls. The Lakers, he said, wish to be a robust basketball team because they’ve “an enormous rival on their doorstep” within the Los Angeles Clippers, who’re expected to depart their shared arena by the 2024-25 season for their very own venue.
“It’s still a Laker town, however the Clippers may eclipse them as a team,” Thorn said, adding: “They wish to have a fantastic team. That’s how they get to where they wish to go. That’s how they maximize the cash they will soak up. That’s how they maximize their brand.”
After all, if the Lakers proceed to underwhelm, as they did last season, James’s contract could draw criticism very like Bryant’s extension did, regardless that James led the Lakers to a championship in 2020. Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss’s daughter and the bulk owner of the Lakers, declined to comment for this text. But James has long escaped the clutches of critics, and the Lakers have shown that, in special cases, they’re willing to speculate of their stars.
“If we return, it was Kobe, it was Magic, it was Kareem,” Erving said. “It was Wilt. It was Jerry West. Elgin Baylor was the best — he was my favorite. In order that they’ve all the time had a man who fans locally and globally could discover with, and LeBron is that guy for the Lakers.”