We’re about to go on a trip through time–back to the Eastern Conference Semis of the 2009-2010 season to be exact.
Its late, Thursday, May 13th. You can feel the tension in a deflated Cleveland Cavaliers team. A team that is now trotting down the floor as it takes its final gasps of air for this season.
A season where LeBron James has solidified himself as the best player in the NBA has gone to waste. His second MVP is in his grasp as he leads a Cleveland Cavaliers team to what should have been a surefire championship contending season. That Cavaliers team won a league leading 61 games but in the end they weren’t the better team.
Of course, they had they had the better player. However, that doesn’t always mean that they have the better aggregate of talent.
By the end of that series the elephant in the room was immovable. No one was sure whether or not LeBron James would return to the Cleveland Cavaliers or not next season. Sure, it would make perfect sense for him to do so. But there was so much speculation.
Before we get into that, lets go back a bit further. Back to 2008 where the speculation all began. Two years before James could officially opt out of his deal with the Cavaliers. Way premature, for sure.
But because of the way that James structured his contract with an opt-out, it was well warranted speculation. James had made it known that titles were his goal. Though he said he’d bring one home to Cleveland–and I believe that he really wanted to–the pieces just weren’t there.
The New York Knicks had made it known that they were planning to go after James in the summer of 2010 and they were going to do so aggressively.
They weren’t the only ones, either. For the next two years our questions went unanswered and our doubts were increased by the day. The Knicks were a foregone conclusion for James in 2008. After all, it made sense right?
The most marketable basketball player in the world in the best market in the world. It was a perfect blend and the perfect timing for a perfect scenario.
James was supposed to lead the Knicks back to the Finals. They hadn’t been relevant in the NBA for so long. Their playoff drought was unbearable for what was supposed to be the Mecca of basketball. They saw their savior in James.
Now, lets take a ride into 2010. The week of July 1st. The start of NBA free agency.
There were plenty of names on the market in what was the best free agent class the NBA had ever seen. There was LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudamire, and other names that were quite popular in league circles.
The James speculation was coming to a head. For years, it had been New York New York New York!
Now we were beginning to hear other names as well. The Clippers were said to be involved, Mark Cuban couldn’t keep his nose out of things in Dallas, Miami came into play, New Jersey as well. Even Golden State was trying to get in on this bidding.
Everyone wanted a piece of LeBron James and rightfully so. He was the best player in basketball and obviously had the most to offer anyone.
Well, as the pen of life began to write on papers of destiny it turned out that James wasn’t going to return to Cleveland. He wasn’t going to go to New York either. He chose Miami as his dream destination.
In his own words: He took his talents to South Beach. Much to the dismay of many fans in NBA cities. He was the villain of the game for the next season and a half, really. He was booed in arenas that weren’t even in the bidding for his services.
He managed to shake the whole balance of the NBA with one decision. From their, it was on.
Fast forward to the present day. LeBron James finally won his first title during the second season as a member of the Miami Heat. In one season, he has once again solidified himself as the greatest basketball player in the game after a vitriolic inaugural season and is now being put on the same pedestal as some of the all-time greatest players to touch the floor.
He won an MVP, an NBA championship, a Finals MVP, and a Gold Medal all in one season. These achievements are unprecedented relative to players of the last decade in the NBA. Only the great Michael Jordan has been able to say that he has accomplished those same feats in one year.
James’ market value is at an all-time high. So you know what that means? We’re going through the same thing all over again.
Now, instead of the Knicks being James’ suitors in 2014–where he will most certainly opt out of his current contract for more money–we’re looking at the Los Angeles Lakers. All of this after the Lakers managed to perform the ultimate coup this offseason in grabbing Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Its not inconceivable that they’d go after James as well when Bryant retires in two years–if the Mamba holds true to that statement.
In 2014 James will likely opt out of his current deal because he isn’t making the max amount for an NBA player right now. He took less than the max in order to play with two other superstars who will demand max deals as well.
If things work out according to his plan, James will be paid about 20 million dollars a year to play basketball in 2014. With Dwyane Wade being on a downward slope in his career at that point, and Bosh’s value decreasing as well the Heat will certainly have the money to pay James that as they’ll take their pay cuts.
The question is if the Lakers offer will be more attractive than the Heat’s. Of course, they’ll have Dwight Howard assuming that he re-signs with the Lakers. But right now this is all speculation.
Its probably best for all of us to drop the speculation and let James play basketball. We need to appreciate what we’re seeing on the floor right now with him as a member of the Miami Heat. And according to James, he isn’t thinking about the Lakers right now. He says that he’s focused on what he’s doing as a member of the Heat.
“That story, I don’t know where it came from, but I understand why it came up because of who I am — it’s going to happen,” James told reporters after Miami’s first preseason home game. “But I’m not going to worry about it. I’ve got to continue to stay focused with these guys and make sure we’re ready for any challenges that come.” -James
Now of course, you’ll all say that we’ve seen this all before. You’ll say that he’s said these same things before and he’s been a walking contradiction. But at the same time, how can we tell what he’s thinking? We can’t.
James doesn’t even know where he’ll land as of now. Hell, maybe he even takes the extension the Heat will most certainly offer him. I doubt it, because its not fiscally wise, but its possible. James is a member of the Miami Heat and he’s comfortable playing here.
Lets not let what the future could hold overshadow what is happening in our faces right now. Take a seat back in the DeLorean. Let’s go forward to 2014. James is wearing a basketball jersey. Who’s jersey? No one is really certain as of now. Only time will tell. But one thing that we do know for certain is that James is a member of the Miami Heat until further notice.