LeBron James’ retirement talk likely a push to get Lakers to build a champion

3LeBron James shook up the sports world Monday night by just intimating that he’s considering retirement, by simply saying he’s “got to think about it.”

We have to respect the NBA’s all-time leading scorer by taking him at his word. James — as methodical and calculating as any athlete of his generation — always thinks about everything.

But he surely thought about how his comments would land, so who were they intended for?

James’ stated plan has been to continue for another two years, so that he can play alongside his son Bronny after a year at USC.

But plans change. James is just 548 minutes behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most minutes logged in league history — and in all that time, he’d never broached retirement until Monday. But we have to remember, this wasn’t just any Monday.

“Coming off a tough loss like that, the work we’ve put in this season, I think I was ready to retire after last night, too,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham joked Tuesday.

James had just poured his heart, soul and 40 points into an elimination game, playing on a bad foot. The Lakers’ star had just survived a physical battle against Memphis, 

gutted out an emotional win over the Warriors and lost a draining duel with Denver. And all at the age of 38, when his contemporaries are disappearing.

Longtime pal Carmelo Anthony had retired earlier that day. Tom Brady had already ridden off into a sunset free of sacks and blindside hits.

Asking an aging athlete moments after their season ended if they’re returning is a journalistic necessity, but it’s also the exactly the wrong time for physically and emotionally drained players to truly know.

Athletes often vow they’re retiring, only to return. Others walk away for good at the peak of their powers (the recently-deceased Jim Brown did it the same year he won MVP and led the NFL in rushing, and Barry Sanders was a year removed from MVP).