The King will get his treasure.
LeBron James already signaled he intends to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, but even so he'll look to do so on an even bigger deal as the NBA salary cap continues to expand. James' agent Rich Paul told ESPN Tuesday night that James has officially declined his $24 million player option for next year and will become a free agent.
The move is less of a stunning reversal of decision for James and more a financial formality. By opting out, James can sign another one-and-one (two years with a player option second-season) with an estimated $8 million raise to $31.9 million next season. Then in 2017, he can do the same and bring in a starting salary of $35.3 million.
So yeah, there's a lot of cash on the table to justify this.
But those numbers dip, as do the raise percentages on any long-term deal he may want to sign, if he leaves the Cavaliers. James said at the Cavaliers' championship parade that he intends to stay in Cleveland no matter what. However, by signing the one-and-ones consistently, it maintains pressure on owner Dan Gilbert to retain the players that James wants him to, and to keep paying an exorbitant luxury tax, without the benefit of knowing no matter what James will be there. It keeps the ball in James' court, and means that despite Gilbert's immense wealth, James is the one who holds the power in Cleveland.
James' power brokerage has been criticized, from the value of the decisions, to the intrinsic impact of that particular power dynamic. But in the end, it worked. James brought home the title that Cleveland had so desperately craved, and brought his third championship trophy to this illustrious career. Now he gets a handsome $8 million raise and a summer to enjoy the banana boats with his friends.
The NBA world belongs to LeBron James. This move is simply his mechanism to bring home the financial benefits along with it. Expect James to re-sign on a one-and-one deal on Thursday night at midnight with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But... if he doesn't...