LeBron James contemplated retirement after his Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets, despite posting the highest point production for half of the playoff games of his uneventful NBA career.
The star scored a career-high 31 points in the first half of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday night, but missed two game-tying shots in the final minute. The Nuggets won 113–111 to end the season for Los Angeles.
The 38-year-old James had 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. It also ended in extreme frustration, as the Lakers’ big late-season comeback ended with four straight losses. Although the top scorer in NBA history was identified as part of the Lakers’ project for next season, James also stated that he had not decided to retire.
“We’ll see what happens afterwards,” he said in his last reply to his post-game press conference. “I don’t know. To be honest, I have a lot to think about. As far as continuing to play basketball, I have a lot to think about.”
James is signed with the Lakers for next season, earning a salary of $46.9 million. But he owns his own future after eclipsing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time points mark earlier this year.
He previously did not indicate any problems with fulfilling his contract with Anthony Davis. Nor has his level of play seen a significant decline after two decades in the NBA – although he has begun to suffer more injury problems, particularly to his feet and ankles.
“For me, it’s about being able to commit to the team, mentally being at the top of my game, things of that nature,” James said. “Being able to be present in the locker room, on bus transfers and plane trips, things of that nature. It’s something that’s going to be tiring. It was a very tiring season for me, for our team, And of course we all know what happened in the beginning (the Lakers started the season 2-10). It was an extraordinary journey.”
James missed a month over a stretch of the regular season with a tendon injury in his right foot, but made a huge comeback in the playoffs. The Lakers dispatched Memphis and defending champion Golden State, the second seed in the West.
But that was no consolation to James, who didn’t hide his frustration during portions of the fourth game.
“I don’t like to say it was a successful year, because I’m not going to play for anything other than championships at this point in my career,” James said. “To be honest, I’m not excited just to make it to the conference finals. I’ve done it a few times, and it’s not fun to miss the (NBA) Finals.”
In his 282nd playoff game, an NBA record, James scored 21 points in the first quarter of Game 4. He added 10 more in the second and played most of the first half against the Nuggets.
But James managed just nine points in the second half on 4 of 12 shooting from the field and missed two shots in the final minute.