LeBron James has spent years with the Miami Heat, having transformed them into an NBA power. But James' most recent postseason -- the one before he could opt out of his contract with the Heat -- ended in disaster and left everyone wondering if he could still win with Miami's supporting cast. It's a familiar storyline, especially to Cleveland Cavaliers fans, and it got one step closer to the same ending on June 24, as James reportedly opted out of his contract and set up a big decision.
According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, James' agent, Rich Paul, informed the Heat that his client would opt out of the last two years of his contract. As such, he will officially become a free agent right after midnight on July 1, beginning the biggest race to woo an athlete since James' last free agency period four years ago. It might even impact the NBA draft on June 26, as the right draft night move or trade could make just enough room for James.
If history is any indication, James will move on from a team that is no longer equipped to support him and lead him to championships, no matter how much else it has done for him in the past. Of course, the Cavaliers never gave James two championships and four straight NBA Finals appearances before he went to the Heat in 2010. In addition, the odds of him turning his second decision into another ESPN special are hopefully very low.
If the Heat don't want to end up like the 2010 Cavaliers -- and the Cavaliers from the four years after that -- they are going to have to make other big decisions first. The fates of Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade are also uncertain, as they too have to choose whether to opt out of their contracts. If they do, the entire Big Three will have to take pay cuts, so that Miami can find new pieces in a lacking supporting cast, whether they are fellow superstars or not.
When James made himself a free agent in 2010, he didn't drag out the process too long, before creating the most infamous TV decision of all time. But since this could be the last major decision and destination of his career, he might want to think longer and harder this time -- and a lot more carefully.