Report: LeBron James’ retirement thoughts may have been fueled by Carmelo Anthony’s decision to retire

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read

LeBron James certainly had a lot on his mind while he was contemplating retirement after the Los Angeles Lakers got swept by the Denver Nuggets in the 2023 Western Conference Finals, and his friend Carmelo Anthony announcing the end of his NBA career also may have played a role.

“Was he trying to divert the attention from all the blue and yellow brooms that were lying about?” wrote Sam Amick of The Athletic. “Was this a leverage play with the Lakers, a clever way to regain some control of roster decisions in anticipation of Kyrie Irving’s free agency? Or, as one of his associates had suggested in the immediate aftermath of it all, maybe James’ reflective state was inspired by the retirement of his close friend and fellow 2003 draftee Carmelo Anthony on that very same day.

“‘Nah, he’s fine,’ the associate had said then.”

James brought up the idea of stepping away almost immediately after the Lakers lost Game 4 to the Nuggets on May 22, and some thought he may have been trying to draw attention away from the disappointing series result.

The retirement issue hovered over L.A.’s offseason probably longer than it needed to before the 38-year-old finally announced he will return for his 21st NBA season.

Though James’ retirement was never really thought to be a serious consideration, he was facing the prospect of surgery for his foot injury and an unknown Lakers roster that may have also been part of the equation.

Anthony’s part in all of this had not been obvious, with the 39-year-old officially announcing his retirement on May 22 after not playing in the NBA last season. He and James both entered the league in the 2003 NBA Draft. James was the No. 1 overall selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Anthony was the No. 3 overall pick by the Nuggets.

They finally got to play together in the NBA with the Lakers in the 2021-22 season, Anthony’s final campaign. He put off calling it quits for almost all of last season, possibly waiting for another NBA opportunity that never came, and leaves ranked ninth in points in league history.

This season, James will be returning to a Lakers team that has retained important role players and added some new ones, with Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura re-signing to stay and Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince and Jaxson Hayes coming on board in free agency.

The superstar faced a family scare recently when his son Bronny suffered a cardiac arrest while working out with the University of Southern California. The younger James is recovering, but it is another example of never knowing what might impact the elder James’ decisions in the future.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.