When four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James announced that he was opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat, teams were scrambling to convince “The King” to join them. After all, any team with the world’s best player is sure to be an instant contender. Fellow members of the Heat’s Big Three Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh followed suit and opted out of their respective contracts. The three were to make at least $20 million each next season.
By opting out, Wade and Bosh gave the Heat the flexibility to retool with $55 million to play with for the next season. James wants to have a max contract which starts at around $22 million next season. Bosh is looking for a five-year deal from $80 to $90 million while Wade is targeting $55 to $60 million for his next contract. Obviously, Wade and Bosh need to take a pay cut to continue playing with James in Miami. They seem to be both amenable.
It was reported that James’ priority is to surround himself with players to win more championships. The Heat’s weaknesses became glaring when the Big Three got whipped by a less talented but more cohesive San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. The Heat traded up to draft point guard Shabazz Napier. Heat President Pat Riley said that he drafted Shabazz because he’s competitive and a “winner” but we all know that he is James’ favorite. The Heat have also asked about Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony but the latter is a long shot. It is obvious that the Heat will move heaven and earth to keep James.
James’ Cleveland-based agent Rich Paul is taking meetings with other teams but don’t expect any stunning announcements.
For starters, there are only a few teams that can afford the max salary of LeBron and if he joins them, he will have to start over with a new coach, new teammates, and new management. Only the Phoenix Suns have a realistic chance of prying LeBron from Miami but that depends if they can lure Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh as part of the pitch. Another intriguing destination would be the Cleveland Cavaliers who have a bunch of young superstars with upside.
But James has to think about hard about his legacy. We were all witness to the criticism and bashing he received when he made “The Decision” to leave his hometown Cavaliers. His loyalty and character were questioned and put him in a bad light for years. Going to another team would make him look like a mercenary.
The Heat have also had great successes. Since the James era, the team has reached the NBA Finals four straight years winning two NBA championships. No team can say the same. James has won numerous individual accolades with the team. You also have a no-nonsense, win-now management team led by Pat Riley.
Finally, under league rules only the Miami Heat can give him the max salary over a longer period of time. Despite his riches, LeBron won’t leave that kind of money on the table to join any team.
So let’s all stop the speculation, James is staying with the Heat. Period.