One way or another, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James will find himself on the free-agent market this summer.
James signed a one-year deal with a player option for a second season last year. His sole purpose for signing the short-term deal was an ability to hit the free-agent market in an offseason where the salary cap is expected to increase a great deal. In reality, it was financially motivated.
So there’s no reason to believe James would leave Cleveland again, right?
Well, according to the enigmatic Stephen A. Smith over at ESPN, there’s a chance James could decide to bolt to South Beach should he lead the Cavaliers to the title next month.
“I’m in Miami last week. I’m in Miami a few months ago. Skip Bayless, I’m hearing about a return to Miami if this man wins,” Smith said. “He ain’t going nowhere if he loses. But, if he wins, his options are open. LA, but especially Miami, a return to South Beach.”
James’ stated desire in deciding to return to Cleveland last season was to bring a title to the downtrodden sports city. Nowhere in his letter announcing his return did James indicate he was going to retire in Cleveland.
While this might very well be nothing more than rumor and innuendo, Smith has connections on the inside. He’s known for throwing out fiery hot takes, but his overall reporting on the Association cannot be denied.
Smith continued …
“Look man, there’s a lot going on. And there’s a lot riding on him winning. Losing changes everything, because it keeps there in Cleveland. But more importantly, it keeps him stuck, because he knows he can’t leave until he fulfills his promise. And if you can’t because you’re not a champion, that’s far worse than just choosing to stay because you want to.”
Why James would be willing to let down his fan base once again is anyone’s guess. Heck, a move back to the Heat would likely tarnish James’ legacy a great deal.
By no means is this an indication that the two-time NBA champion won’t be checking out his options once he does opt out of his contract.
He would be foolish not to see what other teams can offer him, the Heat included. This list of teams should also include the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
If James’ desire is to maximize his brand while earning more titles, he’d be stupid not to check out these opportunities.
Even then, it’s hard to fathom him leaving Cleveland for a second time.