Will He or Won’t He
“Will He or Won’t He” sounds like the beginning of a bad romantic comedy your girlfriend forced you to watch on Valentine’s Day. That’s not what this is. This is a romance story every south Florida sports fan should be concerned with. LeBron James. Will he opt out of his contract after the 2014 season and leave Miami or will he stay and likely finish out his career as a member of the Miami Heat? “The Decision” 2014 edition is fast approaching and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it or slow it down.
When the Big 3 came together in the offseason prior to the 2011 season, all three signed six-year contracts. In those six-year contracts exists an “opt-out” clause which, in short, allows a player to opt out of the contract and enter the free agency market. This allows said player to be courted by another team interested in his services. It is unlikely that Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade will opt-out of their contracts because no team will be willing to pay them what Miami is currently paying them. This leaves LeBron James and his unique situation. LeBron can essentially go to any team in the league if he so chooses. Who will say no to him? Obviously the logistics of money and salary cap will dictate which other teams outside of Miami can realistically land James. The thought of LeBron James testing the waters of free-agency would best compare to your wife being a contestant on “the Bachelor” and you being forced to watch.
Just about every team under the sun has interest in The King’s services. Which teams are serious contenders though?
Could LeBron actually go back to Cleveland? After everything? After Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert publicly slammed LeBron and the entire city slandered him, would he be willing to go back to his home team? Cleveland seems to think so. However, making it work is another thing all together. The allure of playing with a young superstar like Kyrie Irving might be enticing but that’s really all Cleveland has to offer. The Cavs could have Hometown cooking and Kyrie is the pitch. Not terrible, but by no means is that a homerun. You have to ask yourself, is nostalgia going to fill the hunger LeBron has to win championships? It certainly does not seem plausible that he wins a ring in Cleveland.
New York is rumored to also have a dog in this fight. Can the selfless LeBron James team up with selfish Carmelo Anthony in New York with the Knicks? The better question is, would he? Carmelo is going to test free agency for the first time in his career but it is widely believed that he will return to the Knicks. Even in theory it doesn’t seem as though Anthony and James would be able to co-exist AND flourish. If the duo did team up how would the rest of the team shape up? Who would coach them? Seems like an awful lot of uncertainty for LeBron to uproot from Miami where he’s comfortable only to wind up in a much more volatile environment that is New York.
Then there’s Los Angeles. Both LA franchises would be bidding for King James. Let’s start with the Lakers. While the tradition of the purple and gold is rich, what else do they have to offer? Well they have Kobe Bryant. Playing with Kobe is great in theory but what can Kobe possibly have left in the tank? The often injured aging superstar has just about reached the end of his illustrious career. Hypothetically, LeBron picks the Lakers and teams up with Kobe. Now what? The Lakers are on the hook for $23 million and $25 million for Kobe’s salary, once you add a maximum contract for LeBron, what’s left to build a team around them?
Now on to the Clippers, this actually seems like a pretty good candidate compared to the other two. The less tradition rich Clippers are a budding franchise on the rise it seems. There is a lot of hype surrounding them and there is no question which is the hotter ticket in LA right now. Perfect California weather and a championship contending team sounds too good to be true. It gets better. LeBron would love to play with Chris Paul. The two are extremely close and Chris is actually a godfather to once of LeBron’s children. But before we sing, seal, and deliver his Majesty let’s take a deeper look. The Clippers already have a bill of $73.2 million for next year excluding the max contract they would have to give LeBron James. Though the aerial assault of LeBron James, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan would be incredible; it just doesn’t seem likely. Lob City West would have to do some major restructuring of contracts and/or get rid of some guys to make this happen.
Last but not least is Miami. LeBron has it made in Miami. Beach weather in the winter. No State income tax. The Heat can offer him more money than any other team per the new CBA. What’s not to love? In all seriousness, Miami is in a position where the owner has made it emphatically clear that he is in the business of winning and is willing to pay to bring in players even if that means getting hit with the luxury tax. Micky Arison and Pat Riley will do whatever it takes to keep LeBron happy and put him in a position to win more rings.
To recap the five contenders in more simple terms:
Cleveland Cavaliers: high school sweetheart after bitter divorce marred by slander and anguish… Chances: doubtful
New York Knicks: Career sorority girl… Chances: Doubtful
LA Lakers: Hot middle-aged divorcee looking to have fun… Chances: Fair
LA Clippers: Foreign beauty. Relatively new to the States… Chances: Decent
Miami Heat: Wife… Chances: Probable
I ultimately believe LeBron stays happily married to the Miami Heat and they live happily ever after. Your move Pat Riley and Micky Arison. Time to renew some vows.