Rumor: LeBron seeking multi-year contract to continue with Lakers

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns

"I don't have the answer to how long it is, or which uniform I'll be in [when he retires]. Hopefully it is the Lakers, it is a great organization, so many greats. I don't know how it's going to end, but it's coming. It's coming for sure."

That was LeBron James during All-Star weekend when asked how much longer the 39-year-old will play and where. The conventional wisdom around the league has been he will retire a Laker, that they will sign him to an extension or new contract after this season and he will stay in Los Angeles (he has a $51.4 million player option for next season). However, if the ninth-seed Lakers get bounced in the play-in, if he doesn't see a path forward for this team to contend, if his son Bronny James enters the NBA and gets drafted to another team... nothing is ever certain in the NBA.

Or, it might come down to money. On ESPN's First Take, Brian Windhorst said LeBron is looking for a multi-year, nine-figure deal to stay in Los Angeles (hat tip Real GM).

"First off, I think LeBron is angling to sign a multi-year deal in the offseason with the Lakers that will be nine figures. That will be even bigger than the deal he is on now. Now, whether or not he's able to finish that deal, whether or not the Lakers want to give him a three-year contract and pay him $60 million when he's 42 years old, that's a different discussion."

The Lakers would do it for business reasons — the combination of the Lakers brand and LeBron's brand is the biggest marketing force in the NBA right now, both domestically and internationally. LeBron pays for that contract many times over for the Lakers in terms of filled arenas, sponsorship and local television revenue. Whatever is happening on the court — and LeBron is still an All-NBA level player at age 39 — he is worth that contract purely as a business matter.

With LeBron comes a lot of win-now pressure, which the Lakers must address this offseason. Whatever the frustrations with Davin Ham's rotations or the performance of some role players, the fundamental truth is the Lakers are not a threat to the Nuggets or other teams at the top of the West right now. And Oklahoma City and Minnesota will only improve in the next few years. It's on general manager Rob Pelinka and the rest of theLakers's front office both to re-sign LeBron and convince him they are putting together a roster that can compete with the elite in the NBA.

That on the court pressure is real, but if the Lakers are paying more than anyone else then LeBron will end his career in Los Angeles.