To win a fifth ring with the Lakers, LeBron James needs to make a sacrifice

Los Angeles Lakers fans seem split on LeBron James. While plenty of them support or even love him, there are plenty of others who want him to leave as soon as possible for whatever reason.

Yes, there are risks and downsides to having James on one’s team. But there is no way around it: If the Lakers are serious about winning another NBA championship anytime soon, they need to keep him.

He can opt out of his current contract to become a free agent this summer. The general expectation around the league is he will do just that in order to stay with the Lakers on a new deal.

Such a decision would allow James to make some rather big bucks on what will likely be his last contract, and there is no doubt the team would let him stay, no matter how much it costs. But the cost of a new contract for him could have some costs for the Lakers as far as improving their roster.

They have a good, perhaps even a very good roster, but not a championship-caliber roster. With the league’s salary cap becoming even more restrictive than it already was, it’s time for James to take one for the team.

It’s time for him to take a pay cut.

We’re not talking about anything severe. We’re simply talking about perhaps $5 million to $10 million less than he’d be eligible for in order to give Los Angeles a little more wiggle room within the suffocating restraints of the salary cap.

According to ESPN, if he opts out, he can sign either a three-year deal worth up to $162 million or a two-year deal for up to $104 million. That would put him at over $50 million a year, which sounds outrageous for a 39-year-old, even one who is still playing at an elite or near-elite level.

It is obvious that James is as much a businessman as he is a basketball player. He has also stated his desire to own an NBA expansion team sometime in the future. Doing so would obviously cost him (and his potential co-owners) boatloads of money.

But he is already a billionaire, according to Forbes, and he has plenty of other sources of income. If James needs another stream of income in order to accumulate enough capital to become the owner of an NBA team, he should be able to create one. His name alone is worth its weight in gold.

The Lakers need an upgrade in the backcourt — they need a ball-handling guard who can facilitate for teammates and create pace so that James wouldn’t be their only player who can perform either task. They could also use a legitimate, proven 3-and-D wing, and some feel they need another legitimate center, perhaps to move Anthony Davis back to the power forward spot for at least part of the time.

It would be harder for them to pull off such additions if James is pulling in upwards of $50 million a year on his next contract. If he’s serious about winning at least one more world title and silencing the critics who attack his resume, he needs to hold back on his NBA earning power.

After all, you cannot buy a championship ring.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire