LeBron James wants to stay with Lakers 'as long as I can play'

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is doing damage control after suggesting he could leave the franchise. James came under fire after admitting he could return to the Cleveland Cavaliers to finish out his career. He backtracked from that stance Friday, saying he wants to remain a Laker "as long as I can play."

James made those comments following the team's 105-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, according to Pro Basketball Talk.

“This is a franchise I see myself being with. I’m here. I’m here,” LeBron said. “I see myself being with the purple and gold as long as I can play.”

James' status with the Lakers is in question after reports of unrest with the organization. James is reportedly upset the team failed to make upgrades at the trade deadline. The Lakers reportedly balked at a trade involving Russell Westbrook and John Wall. James' agent, Rich Paul, reportedly met with the Lakers' front office. Paul denied pushing for changes within the organization.

The Lakers are 27-32 and sit in ninth place in the Western Conference. The team is +3000 to win the NBA championship, per BetMGM.

LeBron James hints at return to Cleveland

Following the NBA All-Star Game, which was held in Cleveland, James said the "door's not closed" on another return to the city once James becomes a free agent. James is under contract with the Lakers through the 2022-23 NBA season.

At that point, James' decision might hinge on what team selects his son, Bronny James, in the 2023 NBA draft. LeBron wants to play a season with his son before retiring. Whatever team takes Bronny will apparently also get LeBron. It's a package deal.

Closing things out in Cleveland would be fitting. LeBron grew up in Akron and Bronny was born in Cleveland. Playing one more year in the city would provide LeBron with a proper sendoff, while allowing Bronny to establish himself in a city that will fully support him.

LeBron James with the Lakers.
LeBron James wants to stay with the Lakers. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)