LeBron James to decide next team
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2018 - 12:00am

There is talk that LeBron James will decide today whether or not to opt out of his Cleveland Cavaliers contract and become an NBA free agent. Technically, he has until June 29 to make up his mind. James has a year left in his three-year $100 Million contract that he signed with the Cavs in 2016 and under the terms of the deal, has the option to exit before the final year.

Purely on economic considerations, James stands to earn more money by staying in Cleveland. The team is allowed by the NBA to renegotiate James’ salary before the three-year contract expires and sign him to a five-year extension up to $209 Million, or $41.8 Million a year. This past season, James’ salary was $33.3 Million. If he stands by his existing contract, James’s salary will be $35.6 Million next year. If he signs with another team, the maximum that may be offered is a four-year $150 Million deal or $37.5 Million a year.

Without eclipsing the salary cap, the only teams with the capability of offering James a salary of over $35 Million a year are Cleveland, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers. Other teams may clear cap space by trading or dumping players but that’s a complicated process. Money, however, isn’t the only motivation for James to leave or stay in Cleveland.

If James decides to become a free agent, it won’t be a startling decision. He’s opted out of contracts twice before – from Cleveland in 2010 and Miami in 2014. James, 33, is thinking about leaving Cleveland once more after the Cavs were swept by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. It was the second brooming in James’ history with the Cavs. In 2007, San Antonio blanked Cleveland, 4-0, in the Finals and James eventually left his home state for Miami.

There’s no question James will go down in history as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, individual performer in hoops ever. He’s been a fixture in the last eight Finals, winning the trophy thrice along the way. It’s not a convincing success rate, 37.5 percent and if the 2007 appearance is factored in, the mark goes down to less than 30 percent. Bill Russell has the most Finals outings ever with 12 and won 11 titles. Michael Jordan went to six Finals and never lost. Tim Duncan also played in six Finals and won five titles. Kobe Bryant had seven Finals appearances and bagged five crowns. Steph Curry has performed in the last four Finals, winning thrice.

James, who never attended college and moved straight from high school to the pros, came from humble beginnings. He was born to a 16-year-old mother Gloria who had a casual relationship with his father Anthony McClelland, a vagabond with a long criminal record. James was introduced to basketball by an uncle when he was nine and blossomed into a remarkable athlete. But it wasn’t just athleticism that propelled James to greatness. He was always a cut above everybody else when it came to discipline, work ethic and focus. James demanded excellence from himself and from everybody else around him. He’s considered the best basketball player on the planet today and on the court, when his teammates don’t live up to his expectations, he gets exasperated. That exasperation led to his decision to become a free agent in 2010 and 2014. If he decides to become a free agent on or before June 29, it will be driven by that same exasperation he felt before.

Throughout his storybook career, James has been outstanding. He’s a four-time MVP and a three-time Finals MVP. His winnings include two Olympic gold medals with the US team in 2008 and 2012. In 15 NBA seasons, he has never averaged less than 35 minutes a game and has normed at least 30 points twice. This past campaign marked the first time that James played the entire 82-game regular season schedule in his career, proving that he’s far from slowing down.

James’ endorsements are valued at $55 Million. According to a study conducted by ESPN Magazine, James’ social media following was listed to be 40.8 million. Kevin Durant is next in the ladder with $36 Million in endorsements but Curry is a close second with $35 Million. Curry, however, has a larger social media following with 19.4 million compared to Durant’s 17.5 million.

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