BOSTON (CBS) — Brace yourselves, everybody, because The Summer of The Decision, Part II is upon us.
LeBron James will opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and will therefore become a free agent, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard.
James, 29, is fresh off losing the Finals against the Spurs in five games. James led the Heat with 27.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game during the postseason, after he averaged 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game in the regular season. Those regular-season numbers were also best on the team.
James’ free agency opens up a world of possibilities for NBA teams, and the trickle-down effect of James’ decision this time around will impact how a number of teams approach the upcoming draft.
Last week, Heat president Pat Riley sent a strong message to LeBron, by way of the media, saying that it’s difficult to win in this league.
“This stuff is hard, and you’ve got to stay together if you got the guts. You don’t find the first door and run out of it,” Riley said. “We’ll find out what we’re made of here. It’s not about options. It’s not about free agency. There’s just looking around the room now and finding out who’s going to stand up. … So just get a grip, everybody. That’s my message. That’s my message to the players.”
James’ fellow Big Three members, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, also have the option to opt out of their own contracts, though that remains unlikely for Wade, who is due to make more than $20 million in each of the next two seasons.
James initially took less money to sign with the Heat in 2010 so that the team had more flexibility in building a championship roster. The Heat made it to four consecutive NBA Finals, losing in their first appearance against the Dallas Mavericks before beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and the Spurs in 2013. James was named Finals MVP after both wins. He also earned NBA MVP honors in 2012 and 2013. The Spurs exacted their revenge this June with the five-game series win.
Rumors of where James will choose to play are sure to swirl until he makes another announcement, though it’s not likely to come in another made-for-TV special. James’ wife, Savannah James, fueled speculation that a return to Cleveland may be in the cards for LeBron when she posted a picture of Akron to Instagram with the caption, “Home sweet home!! The countdown is real! #330.” Cleveland owns the No. 1 pick in this week’s NBA draft, which will be their third No. 1 pick in the past four years, and given LeBron’s hometown ties and the fact that he spent the first seven seasons of his career in Cleveland, the Cavs are sure to dominate the rumor mill.
98.5 The Sports Hub’s Scott Zolak and Hardy were on air to discuss the news as it was breaking Tuesday morning, here’s their reaction: