There’s still time left on the clock for LeBron James‘ career.
The Lakers star announced Wednesday night at the ESPYS in Los Angeles that he will continue playing.
James openly pondered retirement after the Lakers’ playoff sweep by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, but he will become the sixth player in NBA history to play in his 21st season or beyond — joining Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis and Vince Carter, who has the record with 22.
“I don’t care how many more points I score or what I can or cannot do on the floor,” James said after accepting the ESPY award for Best Record-Breaking Performance for passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. “The real question for me is: Can I play without cheating this game? The day I can’t give everything on the floor is the day I’ll be done. Lucky for you guys, that day is not today.”
James was presented the award by his wife, Savannah, who was joined by their three children: 18-year-old Bronny, 16-year-old Bryce and 8-year-old Zhuri.
“Please welcome to the stage, the GOAT, respectfully, LeBron James,” Savannah said.
James, 38, used the occasion to reflect on how his children have fueled his continued passion for the game of basketball.
Bronny will be a freshman on the USC men’s basketball team in the fall. Bryce transferred to Campbell Hall High School, where he will play his junior season. James recently coached Bryce’s AAU team, Strive For Greatness, at the Peach Jam tournament in South Carolina.
“Tonight, I want to use this moment to just say something that I’ve said a million times and I will never get sick of talking about it: I love this game. I love the game of basketball,” James said. “There’s a video going around right now on the internet of me coaching Bryce’s team last weekend, and it’s actually pretty funny. I saw a lot of posts with people talking about, ‘LeBron brings the energy to a high school AAU game the same way he would do to a Finals game.’ And to me, that’s the ultimate compliment.
“In my 20 years playing this game and all the years before, I’ve never, ever cheated the game, and I will never take it for granted.”
With former teammates Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in attendance Wednesday night, James detailed his dedication to the sport that has thrust him into the national spotlight for more than two decades.
“Every time I step foot on the floor, either coaching my boys or playing, I want to give it everything. I do it for myself,” James said. “I do it for some of my teammates that I’ve had before and now. And I do it for all the greats that came before me. And more importantly — or most importantly — I do it for the fans, the lovers of the game.
“Listen, you can love me — and I know some of you hate me as well — but the one thing you will always do is respect me and appreciate the way I approach the game and what I’ve given to this game.”
James explained his mindset when, after scoring 40 points and playing all 48 minutes in the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to the Nuggets, he told ESPN he had to think about “if I want to continue to play.”
“When the season ended, I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep playing,” James said. “And I know a lot of experts told you guys what I said, but I’m here now speaking for myself. In that moment, I’m asking myself if I can still play without cheating the game — can I give everything to the game still? The truth is, I’ve been asking myself this question at the end of the season for a couple years now. I just never openly talked about it.”
James also continued to distance himself from his prior wish to play on the same NBA team as one or both of his sons, saying, “They’re on their own basketball journey, and no matter how far they choose to go, they’re not cheating the game. And that inspires me.”
In short, The King will return.
“You know what brings me back every year? It’s watching and coaching my boys and their teammates,” he said. “I see those kids, and it brings me right back to why I play. Those kids get me back to where I need to be, just the pure love of his beautiful game.
“So, yeah, I still got something left. A lot left. I love you all, and thank you so much for watching this journey so far.”