Hope you’re ready for The Decision 2.0, NBA fans. According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, LeBron James‘ agent, Richie Paul, has informed the Miami Heat that the two-time NBA champion and four-time MVP will opt out of his contract this summer, exercising an early termination option that will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.
James was scheduled to make $20 million this season and had two years left on his deal with the Heat, who are coming off four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. With three of the top five picks from the loaded 2003 NBA Draft on the roster, Miami going 2-2 in those Finals may not have been enough to keep the world’s best basketball player from testing free agency.
Of course, this could just be LeBron trying to restructure his contract with the Heat so they can retool and make another run at a championship next season. The Eastern Conference is still laughably weak in comparison to the West and if the Big Three of LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all decide to take less money this summer, it could free up enough space to lure the kind of free agents Miami needs to fill another championship roster.
Carmelo Anthony is one name that’s been tossed around already. Melo has already opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks and will test free agency this summer, so a superstar reunion adding the fourth top-five pick from that 2003 draft isn’t out of the question for the Heat. Anthony would also have to be willing to take a pay cut to make it work and Miami would have very little room left over to sign the kind of quality role players a championship team needs, but the idea of a Big Four is intriguing nonetheless.
LeBron may be sending message to Pat Riley “upgrade or else” but he knows Riley couldn’t upgrade without big three opt-out, sacrifices.
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) June 24, 2014
Miami is coming off a thoroughly dominant five-game loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. Following the loss, James wouldn’t give any indication about his plans for the future and said he would think about it over a vacation with his family. He had until June 30 to inform the Heat of his decision.
Now that LeBron is opting out and vying for free agency like he did in 2010, a number of teams will be lining up for his services. James has the luxury of playing for pretty much any team in the league with the room to add him to the roster. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns have all been mentioned as teams that would make James an offer in free agency, but you can be guaranteed the suitors will be lining up in the streets now.
If James feels that Pat Riley’s vision for the future isn’t enough to bring him the multiple championships he needs to measure up to Michael Jordan’s six rings, or if he feels that Wade’s knees are failing him, he will once again seriously consider taking his talents elsewhere. How such a move would affect his legacy remains to be seen, but Riley’s forward press conference last week indicates he wouldn’t look to fondly on LeBron “taking the first door” out of a complicated situation.
With the two biggest free agents of 2014 opting out and testing the open market, this offseason just got a whole lot more hectic.