As expected, LeBron James opted out of his 2016-2017 year on the contract. He’s not leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, he’s simply doing the right business decision.
James was due to make $24 million in 2016-2017, but the rising salary cap and his veterancy means he can sign a much bigger deal, whether it’s another 1+1 contract or a five-year deal. Assuming James remains at the same level, which is pretty much the best player in the NBA, he has nothing to fear about next season, and it’s worth his time to take just one year so he can earn a lot more by signing the five-year deal in 2017, when the salary cap is projected to be around $110 million. Taking a one year deal will pay him $27.5 million next season. Taking a five year deal now will mean $30 million per season, roughly.
A funny thread on reddit asked if LeBron James demanded a human sacrifice in order to stay in Cleveland would the people of Cleveland kill someone for him? With people eating horse s*** off the street in the Cavs championship parade, who knows what lengths they’d go to in order to keep the biggest sports star in the history of the city, alongside Jim Brown. But like a small number of stars in the NBA, James can ask for anything, and he’ll get it.
It’s interesting if at some point, the Cavaliers start taking his age into account. James will be 32 in December, and entering his 14th NBA season. He is 13 games short of 1000 regular season career games, and is already 9th on the all-time list of playoff games at 199. While there have been signs of him declining (a bit) and slowing down, the playoffs once again put him on the pedestal of best player in the world, and the Cavs are fine with him taking it a bit easier in the regular season. After mostly cruising in the postseason, he took it up a notch to close the series against the Raptors, and finished with 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks while shooting 49.4% from the field in the NBA Finals.
For now, it doesn’t seem like the Cavaliers will have any kind of hesitation when it comes to giving James whatever he wants. But as you get older, risking and betting on your future by signing short term deals is always dangerous. Injuries, even to someone like James, could always be waiting just around the corner. It’s a calculated risk that James is probably willing to take, with the Cavaliers, at the moment, giving in to whatever he asks for.