Did LeBron James just play his last NBA game? Lakers star says: 'I got to think about it'

LOS ANGELES — Did LeBron James just play his final NBA game?

In an interview with ESPN as he left Crypto.com Arena after the Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets on Monday, James left that possibility on the table.

Asked if he would walk away, James said, “I got to think about it.”

That one-on-one exchange between James and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin happened after James concluded his postgame press conference with a cryptic answer to an innocuous question about his 2022-23 season. James spent most of the postgame interview taking questions about the conference finals loss, how good Denver’s Nikola Jokic is and he was adamant he hadn’t looked ahead to next season.

But in his answer to that final question, he said, “We'll see. We'll see what happens going forward. I don't know. I don't know. I've got a lot to think about to be honest. I've got a lot to think about to be honest. Just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball, I've got a lot to think about.

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Lakers forward LeBron James, 38, has played 20 seasons in the NBA.

“Appreciate it.”

Then, he walked off the dais and toward the arena exit. That’s when McMenamin caught up with James.

Trying to read the tea leaves in a James comment has become a cottage industry over the years. Sometimes, the breadcrumbs lead places. Sometimes, they run into a dead end.

Now, James, 38, has two years and $97.5 million left on his contract with a player option for 2024-25. James doesn’t need the money but even walking away from that would be stunning.

James has often said he would like to play in the league alongside his son Bronny James, a high school senior who will play basketball at the University of Southern California in 2023-24. He is a projected first-round pick.

But James also recently said what he wants might not be what his son wants, and as a parent, he needed to understand that.

There’s also the idea that James is using his leverage to ensure the Lakers make the kind of moves necessary to become a better team next season.

Throughout his postgame interview, he said he didn’t know what the roster would look like next season but mentioned he was under contract.

He also answered a question about his close friend Carmelo Anthony, who announced his retirement from professional basketball Monday. James knew it was coming because Anthony asked him to do a video tribute.

Losing to Denver and seeing his friend retire may have also put James in a reflective mood. James knows the end isn’t that far away.

It would be a shocker if Monday turned out to be the end of James’ amazing career.

Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

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