I’ve been awake exactly 90 minutes as of writing this, and I’m already disgusted.
LeBron James, in a move that was 100% not shocking at all, did exactly what he was supposed to do this Tuesday morning. Per SB Nation’s Jason Patt:
Miami Heat star LeBron James has exercised his early termination option, making him a free agent this summer, SB Nation has confirmed. The news was originally broken by ESPN. James is the first of the Heat’s Big Three to either opt out or opt in for next season. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also have early termination options in their contracts, and it’s currently unclear what their plans are going forward.
So here I am, wondering if my at-the-time wild prediction from a few weeks ago that LeBron might take his talents to the Houston Rockets is on the horizon, and then it hit me. My television viewing experience, my internet engagement and my general interactions with people would not be the same for a lengthy amount of time.
Not that I’m surprised about any of this, but it’s one of those things that you don’t initially expect to be woken up by. Already, I’ve seen the entire Northeastern Ohio fan base simultaneously scream to the mountaintops EFF LEBRON JAMES and BRING THE KING HOME. I’ve seen photoshops of LeBron James wearing every single jersey in the NBA. I turned on SportsCenter and watched it for 20 minutes straight, and it hit me that ESPN would only talk about LeBron James. This was definitely 2010 all over again.
While 2010 felt like fan bases all across the NBA map had a real chance to win the lottery, in reality we now know that the legend of Worldwide Wes and other power players made moves like ships passing in the night. The 2014 experience will feel like tactical warfare. With the new CBA and four years tenured, teams are savvier. More importantly, players are savvier. LeBron’s on the market, Carmelo Anthony’s on the market, Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo are there for the taking. We never dreamed of the forming of “super-teams” until LeBron’s first decision happened. Now it seems like an inevitable reality for any team that’s serious about trying to win a NBA championship.
The one thing LeBron’s never done is lie to us, and he’s always stated that he has a desire to the be the greatest NBA player of all time. So what happened today with The King opting out was just a foregone conclusion. Grantland’s Zach Lowe explains this way better than I ever could:
LeBron could look at this roster and plausibly conclude it no longer represents his best chance at long-term championship contention. But where else would he find that? LeBron can in theory force his way to any team, especially if he’s willing to take a larger pay cut than most would have expected possible even a year ago. LeBron could go anywhere, without any cap gymnastics, if he’s willing to shock the world by accepting only the midlevel exception.
He could also opt in for just one more season in Miami, suss out the franchise’s plans, and see what the free-agency landscape looks like a year from now. James is sensitive about his legacy, and surely understands that jumping teams again would brand him a mercenary.
If LeBron left Miami and went to a third team, would he really be a mercenary? We never say this about Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley or Scottie Pippen. Yet we’ve already pinned this lack of franchise loyalty on LeBron like it actually matters in the grand scheme of things. You know the conversations fans like to have, and he knows it too. I can’t think of a player taking ownership of his career path like LeBron James has, and yet the world is already prepared to crucify him.
The opt-out took place just hours ago, and The Decision II looms ahead like a sequel from a major movie franchise that you’re unsure of how promising it’ll be. Let’s just hope our brains don’t turn to mush before LeBron decides exactly where he’ll take his talents next.