LeBron James Surprises ESPYS Audience with Near-Retirement Feint: ‘Fortunately, Today Isn’t the Day for Goodbyes

LeBron James speaks onstage at The 2023 ESPYS
PHOTO: GILBERT FLORES/VARIETY VIA GETTY

LeBron James shocked audiences with a fakeout at the 2023 ESPY Awards.

The Los Angeles Lakers star, 38, took the stage to be recognized as the leading scorer in NBA history, after breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record in February.

James started out by thanking his wife Savannah James and noting how proud he was of his teenage sons LeBron “Bronny” James Jr., 18, and Bryce Maximus, 16, before discussing his future in the NBA.

“When the season ended, I said I wasn’t sure if I was gonna keep playing,” he said. “And I know a lot of experts told you guys what I said, but I’m here now speaking for myself. In that moment, I kept asking myself if I could still play without cheating the game.”

LeBron James (L) onstage at The 2023 ESPYS
LeBron James and his family at the ESPYs.GILBERT FLORES/VARIETY VIA GETTY

“Can I give everything to the game still?,” he continued. “Truth is I’m gonna ask myself this question at the end of the season for a couple of years now. I just never openly talk about it.”

“The day I can’t give the game everything on the floor, is the day I’ll be done,” he said before a long pause.

The athlete left everyone on the edge of their seats waiting to see whether he would announce his retirement.

“Lucky for you guys, that day is not today,” he said with a smile, as the audience applauded.

He added that watching his sons play ball with their coaches and teammates “brings me back every year.”

“I see those kids and it brings me right back to where I play,” he said. Those kids get me back to where need to be… But yeah, I still got something left. A lot left.”

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and his son LeBron James Jr
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and his son LeBron James Jr.KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/GETTY

The recognition for James also brought another memorable moment from the night as his wife gave him an unforgettable introduction before he made his speech.

“I decided, I wanna tell you what I think. LeBron James is the baddest mother—,” Savannah said, before their daughter Zhuri, 8, stopped her, leading to big laughs from the audience.

She then clarified her words, “I think LeBron James is the baddest to ever set foot on a basketball court. Nobody works harder. Nobody cares more and nobody has done more for the game of basketball.”

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