LeBron James agrees to two-year deal to stay with Lakers, includes no-trade clause

LeBron James in a Lakers uniform
LeBron James has agreed to a two-year deal that will keep him with the Lakers and features a no-trade clause.
(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)
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LeBron James and the Lakers agreed Wednesday to a two-year deal that includes a no-trade clause and a player option for next season for either the maximum or close to it — a sign that his willingness to take a significant pay cut to aid in the team’s effort to build a better roster has expired.

According to people with knowledge of the talks but not authorized to speak publicly, the Lakers and James’ representatives are discussing the possibility of taking money off the two-year, $104-million max contract to keep the Lakers under the “second apron” for team payrolls.

Crossing that threshold, which is at $188.9 million, would severely limit the Lakers’ ability to add to their roster by placing restrictions on the kinds of trades the team makes, including adding players during the season.


Whether it’s through James’ contract or other deal restructuring, someone familiar with the Lakers’ situation but not authorized to speak publicly said the team will end up under the second apron.

He might be LeBron James’ son, which comes with a spotlight, but he’s only 19 as he embarks on his professional career with the Lakers.

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The Lakers, who currently have a full 15-player roster, would need to shed salary elsewhere to be able to acquire players via sign-and-trades.

James had told the Lakers that he would be willing to take a significant pay cut should the team be able to use the full mid-level exception or a sign-and-trade to acquire a meaningful piece. The Lakers engaged in conversations with Klay Thompson on the first night of free agency and, despite offering him more years and money, lost out on him to the Dallas Mavericks.

James, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, surprised some people around the league with the initial concession, a departure from the widely held belief that he would try to maximize his value in every contract (one of the reasons the Lakers were always considered to be overwhelming favorites to retain him).

But as of Tuesday, when the team introduced their two draft picks, first-rounder Dalton Knecht and second-rounder Bronny James, some people within the organization were left feeling like LeBron James signing for the max was now inevitable.

The team has yet to make any free-agency acquisitions this summer, with D’Angelo Russell, Jaxson Hayes, Christian Wood and Cam Reddish all using their player options to return to the Lakers. Max Christie re-signed for four years and $32 million to avoid restricted free agency.


Wednesday, the Lakers also signed rookies Dalton Knecht and Bronny James to their rookie contracts, with Bronny James, as expected, getting a guaranteed deal.

Bronny James agreed to a four-year contract that could be worth nearly $8 million, people with knowledge of the contract but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed to The Times.

The Lakers will have a team option for the fourth year of the contract.

After missing the early portion of his first college season following sudden cardiac arrest and surgery to repair a congenital heart defect, James appeared in 25 games, averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds for the Trojans.

Still, the Lakers believe James can develop into a reliable rotation player who can influence the game with his shooting and defense.

“Bronny has earned this through hard work. And for us, prioritizing player development, we view Bronny as like, case study one, because his base level of feel, athleticism, point-of-attack defender, shooting, passing,” Lakers coach JJ Redick said Tuesday. “There’s a lot to like about his game. And as we sort of build out our player development program holistically, he’s going to have a great opportunity to become an excellent NBA player.”

Bronny James will be the first NBA player to share a spot on a league roster with his father.


General manager Rob Pelinka says “launching” the careers of the Lakers’ two rookies is part of helping coach JJ Redick build a foundation.

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“I’ve already seen it on social media and stuff, and the internet and stuff and talking about that I might not deserve an opportunity,” Bronny James said. “But I’ve been dealing with stuff like this my whole life. So it’s nothing different. But it’s more amplified, for sure. But I’ll get through it.”

Pressure remains on general manager Rob Pelinka to find ways to improve the Lakers roster, though that pathway now probably means it’ll have to happen via trade, and while the Lakers have two future first-round picks to deal, they’ve repeatedly said new league rules like the second apron place a premium, in their eyes, on developing their own young talent.

“I think if the right deal comes and we have to put in draft picks, we will,” Pelinka said Tuesday. “I think we’ve talked about it before, we’re now in the apron world. We’ve seen, you know, contending teams or championship-level teams have to lose players. That’s a result of the apron world we’re living in. So, does it make trades more challenging? Yes. Does it make good trades impossible? No.

“So, we’ll continue to pursue upgrades to our roster.”

Staff reporter Broderick Turner contributed to this report.