Four years after his hour-long special on ESPN aptly titled “The Decision,” LeBron James faces another big choice in the upcoming free agency. On Monday July 1, NBA teams will be scrambling to add top free agent choices to their roster; James is the top free agent without question. Opting out of his fifth and final year of his contract worth $20.6 million, NBA fans are anxious to know where the perennial All-Star and two-time NBA champion will end up.
Back when LeBron chose to take his talents to South Beach four years ago, fans – mostly from Ohio – scolded James for “taking the easy route.” This could very well happen again, as he could leave Miami for a different star-studded team such as the Chicago Bulls or L.A. Clippers. While we’re all sure that the allure of winning another NBA title is most appeasing to LeBron, he’d have to take a pay cut to play in Chicago or Los Angeles. Then again, money probably won’t be the biggest selling point to King James. He is currently number three on Forbes’ highest paid athletes list, raking in $53 million in endorsements alone.
If money is the selling point to lure LeBron to an NBA city, there are only seven teams that can offer James a deal worth over $20 million next season without breaking the salary cap, the Pistons, Hornets, Lakers, 76ers, Jazz, Mavericks and Suns. Out of these teams, Dallas is the only one to make the playoffs last year. Unless some drastic moves are made, it’s safe to assume that the Brooklyn Nets are out of the race as they will be well over the $77 million luxury tax threshold.
With all the speculation flying around, many people assume James will stay with the Miami Heat. If this is the case, why did he refuse $20.6 million from the team he has appeared in four consecutive NBA finals with? Perhaps he will take a pay cut to help Miami lure another big name free agent, such as Carmelo Anthony? The Lakers are also reportedly in the hunt to sign both James and Anthony. Sounds likely, and lucrative, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into an instant NBA Finals trophy.
Another destination tossing their name into the hat in the LeBron James sweepstakes is Cleveland. With second consecutive number-one draft pick coming up on Thursday as well as more than $16 million in cap space available, Cleveland would love to have their hometown hero back. He didn’t exactly make a graceful exit from Cleveland, though I’m sure Cavs fans would be more than happy to have him back.
Where James will end up is anyone’s guess at this point. Like four years ago, his choice won’t be made hastily and could take a whole week to choose his next team. As one of the greatest players to ever play the game, it would be dumb for each and every NBA team to pass up his talents. No word yet if he will air another hour-long special on ESPN to announce his decision, but don’t be surprised if he does.