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LeBron officially signs for close to $3 million less than max to keep Lakers below second apron tax

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers

Apr 25, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the second half in game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It became official on Sunday, just before LeBron James stepped on the court in Las Vegas for the first USA Basketball practice in the run-up to the Paris Olympics — LeBron re-signed his two-year contract to return to the Lakers.

That contract is for two years, $101.35 million, about $2.7 million less than his max — enough money to keep the Lakers about $45,000 below the second apron of the luxury tax. It had been discussed when the deal was announced that he might do this to help the team.

LeBron’s deal has a player option in the second year — he can opt-out again next summer — and he’s also got a no-trade clause and a 15% trade kicker.

By being below that tax apron, the Lakers’ organization saves a little money, but more importantly it means they can aggregate salaries to make a mid-season trade (although that trade cannot bring back more money than it sends out if it bumps the Lakers into the second apron). Also, if they finish the season below the second apron, their 2032 first-round draft pick can be in play for trades next July.

“No one plays the game like LeBron James, and his commitment to continuous performance and long-term sustained excellence is unmatched,” Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement announcing the signing. “LeBron is one of the most dynamic and competitive players to ever take the NBA court and we’re grateful to have his leadership as he returns for a seventh season with the Lakers.”
Out in Las Vegas, LeBron was asked about his mindset going into next season, and he said he was excited to work with new coach J.J. Redick but added that doesn’t change how he gets ready.

“For me personally, my only mindset is to come back and be ready to go to work every single day no matter who’s there,” LeBron said. “That’s just that’s just me. I’ve always been me. So, obviously, that’s not that far away, obviously. But when it gets to that point, you know my jersey goes on, my shorts goes on the same way and my work ethic never changes.”