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Report: LeBron James signing extension because he’s facing his basketball mortality

Lakers star LeBron James

ORLANDO , FL - SEPTEMBER 22: LeBron James (23) of the Los Angeles Lakers takes a breather against the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter of Denver’s 114-106 win at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Denver Post via Getty Images

LeBron James – who pioneered signing short contracts in order gain power – is signing a two-year extension that locks him into the Lakers a season before necessary.

Why the change in approach?

Does it have anything to do with Anthony Davis, who is mulling how to structure his own max contract with the Lakers?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

It has nothing to do with free-agent teammate Anthony Davis, sources said.
But, perhaps for the first time in his career, James is admitting some mortality. That is why, sources described to ESPN, he elected to sign a two-year, $85 million contract extension through 2023 with the Lakers on Wednesday.
This is ultimately a conservative move by James and Paul, who are known for being aggressive with contracts. It does line up with their goal for the last six years, which was to get James paid.

Just how conservative is LeBron being? The extension apparently doesn’t even contain a player option.

LeBron is declining his player option for 2021-22 in conjunction with this extension, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN. That accomplishes two things:

1. LeBron increases his 2021-22 salary from $41,002,274 to – at minimum and most likely – $41,180,544. It could even rise as high as $42,018,900 if the salary cap lands higher than expected.

2. LeBron gets an 8% raise from his 2021-22 salary to his 2022-23 salary. If he opted in with this extension, that would have likely been a 5% raise (though could have been higher if the salary cap lands higher than expected).

However, by declining his player option, LeBron can’t get a new one in his extension. When an option is declined, the extension must add at least two seasons, not including option years. (The over-38 rule prevents LeBron from signing a max 2+1 extension.)

So, LeBron gets more money but loses flexibility. That makes sense for someone so deep into his career.

LeBron often seems superhuman. But he is 35 with heavy mileage and is just one season removed from major injury issues. Though LeBron ironically called himself #WashedKing, he truly is aging.

That said, LeBron remains elite. He just led the Lakers to a championship. His new approach is great for the Lakers, who secure his services even longer.