NBA: Lakers says LeBron James has ‘earned right’ to retire

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a foul during the first quarter against the Denver Nuggets in game four of the Western Conference Finals at Arena on May 22, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

Los Angeles Lakers team chief Rob Pelinka said Tuesday he hoped LeBron James would continue his NBA career but said the NBA superstar had “earned the right” to retire.

James, 38, stunned the basketball world late Monday after telling ESPN he was considering calling time on his glittering 20-season career in the NBA.

His comments came after a 40-point display in the Lakers’ 113-111 defeat to the Nuggets, who advanced to the NBA Finals after completing a 4-0 sweep of the 17-time champions.

LeBron retirement hint appeared to catch many — including the Lakers front office — off-guard, given that James signed a two-year contract extension with the team last August.

Lakers general manager Pelinka said Tuesday that he and head coach Darvin Ham will hold talks with James soon to discuss his future, while emphasizing the club would support whatever he chose to do.

“Coach and I will speak to LeBron in the coming days,” Pelinka said.

“We all know that he speaks for himself and we’ll look forward to those conversations when the time is right.

“But I will say this — LeBron has given as much to the game of basketball as anyone who’s ever played.

“And when you do that, you earn the right to decide whether you’re going to give more.”

Pelinka said it was possible James had reached an “inflection point” in his career.

“Our job at the Lakers organization is to support any player on our team if they reach a career inflection point,” Pelinka said.

“LeBron is surrounded by incredible people. I’m sure he’ll have conversations with them. In the coming days we’ll be in contact with him and his team and really providing nothing but support for him.

“Obviously, our hope would be that his career continues. But we want to give him the time to have that inflection point and support him in everything he does.”

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to Head coach Darvin Ham during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Chase Center on May 10, 2023 in San Francisco, California.

FILE–LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to Head coach Darvin Ham during the second Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/AFP

Ham echoed Pelinka’s comments, praising James for his input during a season which saw the Lakers make a disastrous 2-10 start before retooling their roster and making a deep run in the playoffs.

“I think I was ready to retire last night too,” Ham joked. “But in all honesty and seriousness, LeBron has earned the right to do whatever he wants to do.

“I just want to thank him … especially him, for being a consistent resource for me as a first time head coach.

“I’ve been around the game for a long time, and he was the most supportive, knowledgeable, communicative resources that I had all year. He was right there front and center for me and my staff. So he’s earned the right to decide whatever he wants to do.”

Pelinka meanwhile said that the Lakers hoped to keep the core of the roster that finished the season as they build for the future.

“We’re incredibly proud of this group …keeping that continuity is going to be very important,” Pelinka said.

“We ultimately got knocked out by a team that has great continuity. They’ve got a group of players who’ve been together for several seasons and it shows in the way they play. So continuity is a high priority for us.”

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