LeBron James signed a four-year, $153.3 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, but during the unveiling of his I Promise elementary school in Akron, Ohio, James left open the possibility he could one day return to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a third stint:
During his speech, he also noted Akron will always be home to him:
James, 33, spent the first seven years of his career with the Cavs, leading them to one trip to the NBA Finals in the 2006-07 season, though they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. He then infamously signed with the Miami Heat, winning two titles in four years before re-signing with Cleveland in 2014.
In his second stint in Cleveland, the Cavaliers reached the Finals in four straight seasons, though they won just one title (2015-16), running into the Golden State Warriors each time. This offseason, James left the Eastern Conference, signing with the Lakers.
He spoke about that decision Monday, noting he went through the "pros and cons" of joining the Philadelphia 76ers or Houston Rockets, re-signing with the Cavs or becoming a Laker. He also noted L.A. doesn't have any expectations for next season beyond being better than it was last season and developing "championship habits."
While James will likely be enough to vault the Lakers into playoff contention, it's unclear how the players will fit together and what sort of progress the team's young core (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma) will make.
Outside of adding James, the Lakers had an interesting offseason, signing a number of veterans to one-year deals, including Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. So L.A. won't be a championship contender next season. But with a stacked group of potential free agents to chase in 2019 and the cap room to do so, the Lakers may simply kick the can for one year before they make a big push to catch the Warriors.
The team's window with James is for at least the next four years. If things don't go to plan, perhaps James will end his career in Cleveland. He'd be 37 by then, so expectations would be different for his third tenure with the organization. But the fact that he opened the door to the possibility Monday was interesting.