Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James remains “locked in” on basketball with his 38th birthday fast approaching, but the four-time NBA champion made it clear Wednesday that he wants to be a title contender.
James, who turns 38 on Friday, reflected on his career after another frustrating Lakers defeat, this one to the Miami Heat.
With superstar Anthony Davis sidelined by injury, the Lakers have dropped five of their last six games and are 14-21 this season.
It’s not the kind of situation that James — still averaging nearly 30 points per game — wants to be in.
“I’m a winner, and I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships,” James said. “That has always been my passion, that has always been my goal since I entered the league as an 18-year-old kid out of Akron, Ohio.
“And I know it takes steps to get there, but once you get there and know how to get there, playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball is not in my DNA. It’s not in my DNA anymore.”
Even as the Lakers are struggling just to put themselves in playoff position, James is still averaging almost 30 points per game and is on track to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer, perhaps in early February.
“If you look at the history of the game, it doesn’t seem that many have played at this level with this many years and this many miles and things on their resume,” he said.
“I’m very humbled at the same time to be able to play the game that I love still at this level and still be a focal point of opposing teams.”
But championships remain the goal, and James indicated that the Lakers’ troubles have perhaps made the glimpses of what post-NBA life might be like look more appealing.
“I think about a little bit of everything,” he said. “I think about how much of the world I’m going to see when I’m done playing the game.”
James has said he wants to keep playing until his oldest son, Bronny, reaches the NBA, which would be in 2024 at the earliest under current rules.
However, that plan apparently doesn’t include toiling in a mid-table team.
“I think about how much longer I’m going to play the game,” he said. “I think about that I don’t want to finish my career playing at this level — from a team aspect.
“I want to still be able to compete for championships, because I know what I can still bring to any ball club with the right pieces,” James said — a comment sure to be interpreted as a nudge to the Lakers to make some moves before the February 9 trade deadline.