Sue Bird’s Retirement Advice For LeBron James: “It’s Just As Much About The Fans”


LeBron James, the 21-year NBA veteran and four-time champion, has recently hinted at the possibility of retiring from basketball in the near future. He said he was “50-50” on whether he would go on a farewell tour like Kobe Bryant did in 2016, or quietly exit the game like Tim Duncan did in the same year.

But one basketball legend who has experienced both sides of the retirement spectrum has some advice for James: go for the tour.

Sue Bird, the WNBA icon and four-time champion, announced her retirement before the 2023 season and received a grand send-off from fans, players, and teams across the league. She said it was one of the best decisions she ever made, and she would highly recommend it to James or any other superstar nearing the end of their career.


“I tell Diana, ‘I cannot recommend this enough,’ if I talked to LeBron right now, I’d be like ‘Bro, I could not recommend this enough.’ Because what I realized is a couple of things. One, it’s just as much about the fans and them being able to say goodbye to you. And I always thought of it like, ‘I don’t know if I want this attention.’ You have to almost see outside of yourself and understand that this is going to be meaningful for so many people. The second thing, I will say, it can be a lot,” Bird said on Sports Media with Richard Deitsch.


Bird, who played 19 seasons in the WNBA and won four Olympic gold medals, said she was initially against the idea of a retirement tour. She said she changed her mind after seeing how Bryant’s tour impacted the fans and the game.


“I was actually anti-that at one point a couple of years prior, so that was interesting for me to experience it in that way. My only regret is how the season ended because we lost,” Bird said.


Bird’s Seattle Storm were eliminated in the semifinals by the Las Vegas Aces, who went on to win the WNBA title. Bird said she still has fond memories of her final season, despite the loss.

James, who is 38 years old and under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers until 2025, has not made any definitive statements about his retirement plans. He said he was unsure how many seasons he had left, and he would decide when the time comes.


“I don’t know how many seasons I have left. I know it’s not that many. I was asked this question a couple days ago, ‘Will you take the farewell tour or just ‘Tim Duncan’ it?’ I’m 50-50,” James said at All-Star Weekend.


Bird said she understood James’ dilemma, and she said there was an emotional aspect to it. She said James might be feeling the disappointment of losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Phoenix Suns, and he might need some time to reflect on his future.


“The only person who knows what they’re going through in those moments is that person. Obviously I can only speak to my experience, but I do think there’s an emotional aspect to all of it, right? Like you’re exhausted, you just gave everything you have physically, emotionally, mentally, all of it, and it didn’t work out. You end on a loss, and so you’re feeling the emotion and the s**ttiness of that. And I think in that moment, it can really have you questioning a lot,” Bird said.


Bird said she hoped James would consider the benefits of a retirement tour, not only for himself, but for the fans and the sport. She said James had given so much to the game, and he deserved a proper farewell.


“He knows way too much about how an NBA season goes. So of course, he’s going to start to think about some things. I don’t think you have to put a ton of weight in it. Because of course, he’s going to be thinking about that now. That’s just where he is in his career. It doesn’t mean he’s going to retire. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to retire. It’s just kind of where he is, and I think through the offseason, it’ll become clearer for him. That’s what happened for me in 2021, that offseason, very quickly, it became clear like, alright, I do have some gas left in the tank,” Bird said.


Whether James decides to follow Bird’s advice or not, one thing is certain: he will go down as one of the greatest players of all time, and his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of basketball fans around the world.

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