James is under contract for this season at $39.2 million. He had a player option for the 2021-22 season at $41.0 million, though Charania noted this extension will run through the 2022-23 season, superseding that player option and giving him a slight raise.
There may be a particular reason James chose to hit free agency in the summer of 2023—the chance to potentially play with his son Bronny if he reaches the NBA:
The Athletic's John Hollinger offered more context on the extension:
"First, James gets a raise for 2021-22 and 2022-23, because the eight percent raises on an extension are more than the recently updated projected salary cap increase. Second, James likely matches his contract term to that of Anthony Davis, whom most suspect will soon sign a three-year extension with an opt-out after the second year — when he's eligible for the 10-year veteran maximum of 35 percent of the cap. And finally, James can't sign for his max on anything longer: The over-38 Rule in the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement would take effect on a three-year extension."
The next shoe to drop for the Lakers will be the new contract Anthony Davis is expected to sign with the team this offseason. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported the superstar big man "has several possible scenarios on a new deal with the Lakers, including a three-year, $106 million contract that would include a player option for the 2022-23 season—a structure that would align Davis with the end of James' deal."
With James now locked into a deal with the Lakers for three years, it's possible Davis could do a four-year max deal, with a player option for the fourth season, to align with James' timeline. That would give him some flexibility to move on if the Lakers are unable to surround him with star power when James' contract runs out.
But it remains more likely that he follows the path both Hollinger and Wojnarowski laid out, setting himself up to sign a 10-year veteran maximum deal ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Regardless, it appears likely the Lakers will have their superstar duo for at least a few more years. That's good news for the City of Angels.