NBA Rumors: LeBron James’ retirement talk is not a negotiation tactic

NBA Rumors: It doesn’t feel like LeBron James’ retirement talk is about negotiating through the media. 

Naturally, whenever LeBron James says something, there are always multiple layers to it. But as he missed a possible game-tying shot in Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, one thing was abundantly clear – LeBron was no longer LeBron.

The Los Angeles Lakers were swept in four games by the Nuggets, who clinched their first NBA Finals berth in team history. And the Nuggets should be the story, but after the game, the only thing anyone could talk about was the fact that LeBron opened the door for retirement.

In the past, you would see a quote like this from LeBron and you would immediately try to jump to what he’s really trying to say. And there are many that are jumping to the conclusion that he’s already trying to negotiate the acquisition of another star (perhaps Kyrie Irving) through the media, just minutes after the Lakers were eliminated.

And usually, I find myself in that camp. But it felt different this time.

Maybe it was the fact that all throughout the playoffs, LeBron never seemed to be the most important player on his own team. Or the fact that even though he finished with 40 points and a near triple-double, it wasn’t enough. Or maybe it’s the fact that he’s going to be 39 years old next season and he was hobbled for much of this season.

For much of the playoffs, he looked like a really good player. Not great. Not superhuman. Not series-changing. And I can’t remember, off the top of my head, when that was the case ever for LeBron in the NBA.

His production went down in the postseason. His shooting percentages suffered too. He could not – and can’t – will his team to a victory single-handedly anymore. His greatness is no longer something that can be counted on every game.

Maybe this is what Father Time looks like for arguably the greatest player to ever step foot onto an NBA court. LeBron is still great, but that greatness has quickly become less and less consistent.

And now, heading into the offseason, LeBron is realizing that. Perhaps for the first time in his career, he needs to envision how he wants to go out. Does he want to go out on top, even if that means he’s no longer the best or even the second-best player on his team? Or does he want to go out playing at a high level? Right now, there’s no guarantee that he can replicate that level of play over the course of another 100-game season (regular season + playoffs) again.

LeBron truly has a big decision to make. For the first time in more than 20 years, we may be looking at an NBA season that may not feature LeBron James.