LeBron James' season is over.
He's already thinking about what's next. And he says that retirement isn't off the table.
The Los Angeles Lakers star pondered his NBA future during his news conference in the aftermath of Monday's Game 4 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals that completed a sweep at the hands of the Nuggets.
He was asked to evaluate the season that just wrapped. He ended up contemplating his future.
.@KingJames: “Personally, going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about.” pic.twitter.com/RYOoj3H9Qa— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 23, 2023
"We'll see what happens going forward," James said after talking about the season that just ended. "I don't know. I don't know. I've got a lot to think about to be honest. I've got a lot to think about to be honest.
"Just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball, I've got a lot to think about."
He then put down his microphone and walked away, leaving the NBA and its fans to parse exactly what he meant.
Reports: LeBron contemplating retirement
It wasn't long before clarity arrived — to a point. TNT's Chris Haynes reported after the news conference that James is "unsure if he'll be with the team team when 2023-24 season starts in fall and retirement is under consideration."
ESPN's Dave McMenamin then reported that James told him that he has to "think about" whether "I want to continue to play" next season.
LeBron James to ESPN on his thought process going into the offseason:— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 23, 2023
Q: When you say you got to think about stuff, what thread should we be pulling on that?
A: "If I want to continue to play."
Q: As in next year?
Q: You would walk away?
A: "I got to think about it."
McMenamin said that he spoke with James as he left the arena late Monday.
Is LeBron really considering retiring?
If James is legitimately considering retirement, he's experienced a dramatic shift in thought from statements as recent as two weeks ago.
Here's James in January:
LeBron James on chasing the NBA’s all-time scoring record: “I’m going to do it. It’s just a matter of time when I’m going to do it. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be in this league for at least a few more years.” pic.twitter.com/kIPmDFwF0F— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) February 1, 2023
"I'm not going anywhere," James said on Jan. 31 amid his chase to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's then-NBA scoring record. "I'm going to be in this league for at least a few more years."
He's meanwhile repeatedly professed his desire to play in the NBA with his son Bronny James. James did so again as recently as May 6, after Bronny announced his commitment to USC. Bronny will be eligible to join the NBA for the 2024-25 season.
"I was serious," James said. "And I'm still serious about it. Obviously, I've got to continue to keep my body and my mind fresh, I think my mind most importantly. … But at the end of the day, I've done what I had to do in this league, and my son is going to take his journey."
This season was a remarkable campaign for James and the Lakers on multiple fronts. James became the NBA's all-time scoring champion. The Lakers recovered from a 13-20 start and losing record (37-38) as late as March 26 to secure a spot in the play-in and eventually advance to the conference finals.
Meanwhile, James has shown signs of slowing on the court, but remains one of the game's elite players. He averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists this season.
The season also ended in disappointment. Emotions are raw in the aftermath of a season-ending loss. And if James decided to say something to grab media attention, it wouldn't be the first time.
Now the NBA has a dramatic new storyline to accompany the upcoming NBA Finals.