After the Los Angeles Lakers dropped Game 4 of the conference finals to the Denver Nuggets Monday night, you might have expected the headlines to be about LeBron James and Anthony Davis getting swept. Instead, James directed the media narrative in another direction.
BREAKING: Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is unsure if he’ll be with team when 2023-24 season starts in fall and retirement is under consideration, league sources tell @NBAonTNT, @BleacherReport. https://t.co/7M3WuEzwOL— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 23, 2023
“I’m simply not sure if I’ll be back in the fall when the season begins,” James told Chris Haynes after the game. “I have a lot to think about.”
James battled injuries, set the all-time scoring record, and made the All-NBA third team as he helped the Lakers go from 13th place in the West to the conference finals. But would he retire, with $47 million on the table and after talking for years about his desire to play with his son, Bronny?
The answer is, no he won’t retire. But LeBron did keep the media from talking about him getting swept, which was probably his top priority.
Honestly, the Boston Celtics winning game 4 of their own series ruined his plan somewhat. James was able to buy a day where the media focused on his potential retirement (which will not happen this summer) instead of his team’s loss, and if all went well, the Celtics would suffer their own, far more embarrassing sweep the very next night. Maybe their coach would even get fired as a bigger distraction!
This may sound cynical, but we can remember the last time James was swept in a playoff series - the 2018 NBA Finals. He showed up at his postgame press conference wearing a cast on his right hand, supposedly from punching a blackboard in the locker room after Game 1.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that James didn’t want the injury to be used as an excuse, but he certainly seems to have made a point of putting on a cast before talking to the media. If James was ever hampered by the hand injury ever again, we did not hear about it.
There was some other suspiciously timed news this week. Monday, Taco Bell announced that LeBron James had joined their “fight” to get the trademark for “Taco Tuesday,” owned by Taco John’s since 1989, revoked.
LeBron James is supporting Taco Bell's effort to free the trademark “Taco Tuesday” that a small competitor has owned since 1989.— Axios (@axios) May 22, 2023
"It’s a celebration that nobody should own.”https://t.co/FsXuwjkiNu
James called Taco Tuesday “a celebration no one should own,” despite personally trying to own it when he attempted to trademark the phrase in 2019. That effort was also swept - out of court.
Here’s his new commercial:
LeBron x Taco Bell new commercial.— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) May 23, 2023
Taco Tuesday pic.twitter.com/Ytp6a8G3UZ
Look, James is almost certainly exhausted after a long season where he performed heroically at times. Even in his last game, he poured in a career-high 31 points in the first half and played all but a few seconds of the game. At age 38!
Maybe the talk about retirement was just a way to leverage the Lakers front office into making moves, but there’s no reason it had to happen in the postgame press conference. Charles Barkley was annoyed.
"I was so mad this morning I actually turned the TV off. Because the Denver Nuggets sweep, get to the finals for the first time… We all love LeBron, he didn't say he was retired yet… But it should've been all about the Denver Nuggets."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 24, 2023
— Charles Barkleypic.twitter.com/WBuWAv4bs4
It should have been about the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. But then it couldn’t have been about LeBron James. ESPN, Taco Bell, and Klutch Sports simply couldn’t have that.