Dave McMenaminESPN staff writer5 minutes to read
There is still time left on the clock for Career of LeBron James.
The Lakers star announced Wednesday night at ESPYS in Los Angeles that he will continue to play.
James publicly hoped to retire after the Lakers’ playoff sweep by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, but he will become just the sixth player in NBA history to play in his 21st season or beyond — joining Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish, and Kevin Willis and Vince Carter, who has the record with 22.
“I don’t care how many points I score, or what I can or can’t do on the ground,” said James after accepting the ESPY Award for Best Record-Breaking Performance to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s leading scorer. “The real question for me is: Can I play without cheating at this game? The day I can’t give my all on earth is the day I’m done. Lucky for you guys, that’s not the day.”
James received the award from his wife Savannah, who was joined by their three children: 18-year-old Bruni, 16-year-old Bryce and 8-year-old Zuri.
“Please welcome to the stage, goat, with all due respect, LeBron James,” Savannah said.
James, who will turn 39 in December, used the occasion to reflect on how his children have fueled his lifelong passion for the game of basketball.
Bronny Jr. will be A freshman on the USC fall basketball team. Price transferred to Campbell Hall High School, where he would play his junior season. James recently coached Bryce’s AAU team, Strive For Greatness, at the Peach Jam Championships in South Carolina.
“Tonight, I want to take this moment to say something I’ve said a million times and never get tired of saying: I love this game. I love the game of basketball,” said James. “There’s a video circulating right now on the internet of me coaching Team Bryce this past weekend and it’s really funny. I’ve seen a lot of posts with people talking about, ‘LeBron brings energy to a high school AAU game in the same way he would in a game.'” World Cup finals. And to me, that is the ultimate flattery.
“In the 20 years I’ve played this game and all the years before it, I’ve never cheated on the game, nor will I take it for granted.”
With former teammates Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the audience Wednesday night, James explained his dedication to the sport that has catapulted him into the national spotlight for more than two decades.
“Every time I set foot on the ground, whether I’m coaching my kids, or playing, I want to give it my all. I do it for myself,” said James. “I do it for some of the teammates I had before and now. And I do it for all the greats that came before me. Most importantly – or most important – I do it for the fans and the fans of the game.
“Listen, you can love me — and I know some of you hate me too — but one thing you will always do is respect me and appreciate the way I approach the game and what I have brought to this game.”
James explained his thinking 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, “If I want to keep playing.”
“When the season was over, I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue playing,” said James. “And I know a lot of experts told you guys what I said but I am here now speaking for myself. At that moment, I ask myself if I can still play without cheating in the game – can I still give everything to the game? The truth is that I I’ve been asking myself this question at the end of the season for two years now. I’ve never spoken about it publicly.”
James also continued to distance himself from his previous desire 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, they’re not cheating in 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 these kids and it brings me right back to the reason for playing. These kids bring me back to where I need to be, just the pure love of his beautiful game.”
“So yeah, I still have a lot left. A lot left. I love you all and thank you so much for watching this journey so far.”
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