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New deal with Lakers

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As expected, LeBron James has decided not to exercise his option on the final year of his contract. Even as it would have paid him $51,415,938 and made him an unrestricted agent after the 2024-25 season, he clearly felt negotiating a new deal would be to his best interests. Under the new collective bargaining agreement and on the willingness of the Lakers to grant him the maximum-allowable salary, he stands to earn a whopping $162 million through 2027. The numbers are unprecedented for a player about to turn 40, and who has — if slowly — been regressing.

To be sure, James’ value extends off the court, and the Lakers have historically taken care of the names on their marquee. In this context, his salary stands to be a bargain. There is likewise his eligibility to include a no-trade clause in his new accord to consider. Given recent pronouncements, however, he is evidently keen on using the opportunity to provide the purple and gold with not insignificant elbow room to latch on to desirable free agents. Per agent Rich Paul, he’s willing to take a pay cut in order to free up the $12.9 million midlevel exception for an “impact player.”

In other words, James is putting his money where his mouth is. For all his accomplishments, he has continued to cast moist eyes on the ultimate prize. In fact, it can be argued that he remains bent on pushing his limits despite his advancing age and recent susceptibility to injury in search of a fifth championship. With the Lakers’ roster already at 14 following the additions of draftees Dalton Kinect and Bronny James, the final arrival needs to be consequential if they are to keep pace with the National Basketball Association’s acknowledged elite.

Whether or not the likes of Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, and Jonas Valanciunas are truly available remains to be seen. In any case, it’s clear that James understands he and the Lakers are at a crosswords. Only if they work together will they be able to overcome the significant challenges before them. Which is why they will be busy in the runup to the season opener in October. They know full well that their capacity to meet their immediate objective will effectively inform their future.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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