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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh each leave $15 million on the table, but can opt-out after fourth year

Jul 10, 2010, 9:38 AM EDT

The numbers have come out, and the Miami Thrice team-up of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are true to their word, money was not the main thing.

Okay, it was a pretty big thing. James and Bosh are each making $110.1 million over the course of six years, with Wade making $107. It’s not like they’ll be having to live paycheck to paycheck.

But they will be leaving $15 million on the table to play together. In the first year of their contract, Bosh and James will be making $14.5 million (Wade with $14 flat), nearly two million less than what they would have made base-year at the max (in a non-sign-and-trade). They’ll each receive 10.5% raises throughout the life of the contract. But what’s most notable, as ESPN reports in their release of the numbers, is the interesting way each contract ends.

Let’s say this thing is an unmitigated disaster. The first year they struggle, and chalk it up to role players or still learning to play with each other. The second year something weird happens and they just can’t get it together or there’s an injury. And the third year they fail, once more, and again in the fourth. A colossal failure with people pointing fingers and they’re the laughing stock of the league. The most incredible part of this deal?

They can all do this whole thing again in 2014 after the fourth year.

The contract allows for opt-outs for the fifth and sixth year of the deal.


The amount of power this contract yields for the three is simply staggering. They hold an inordinate amount of power, as expected, and have the option to stay for six years if they want. If one of them were to, God forbid, suffer a severe injury that changes their career forever. They can be making $20 million plus at age 34 (Wade) or 31 (James, Bosh). But if they’re dominating the league but want a change of scenery, if jealousy rears its ugly and predictable head, they can be out there on the front line of free agency again.

Leaving the money on the table? It is staggering. You have to understand, multiple sources I spoke to within agencies and the league told me there was no way they would leave the money on the table. None. That’s not how this works. But that’s what they did.

It’s a staggering combination of brash selfishness and admirable selflessness in a pursuit of greatness. It’s staggering ego meets the sacrifice we ask of athletes. We can’t be happy with their image, despite doing exactly what we want athletes to do, sacrifice to win, because of the way it happened. It’s a conundrum of public relations. And nobody wins, except Heat fans.

That said, the pieces are in place, the agreements have been ironed out. Everyone will be watching, to see if they succeed, and many will be watching, hoping they fail. As James wrote on Twitter:

“The Road to History starts now!”

  1. Reggie - Jul 10, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Well I know James if he decides to opt out, I know where he won’t be going back to. The owner of the cavs is a nut.

  2. LebronPOS - Jul 10, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Cleveland Cavs response to Lebron quitting and going to Miami to be Wade’s BlTCH.
    YouTube link:
    Also might want to keep an eye on:

  3. jay - Jul 10, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    While writing this article, did the fact that FL has not state taxes ever pop into your mind?
    Do you think that they got together and crunched the numbers to see where they could REALLY make the most money, not just the biggest contract? I believe I heard that LBJ and Bosh would make more money in Miami with the smaller contract and no state taxes than any other team they considered.
    How about a spin to this story that the Miami contract is a smoke screen to make these players, who are more worried about their egos, look like they actually sacrificed money to win when; while in reality they’re making more money cause of the lack of taxes? Just a thought.

  4. Craig W. - Jul 10, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    Not only are there no state taxes in FLA (10% in Calif and 12% in NY), but by using the sign-and-trade option they also get greater increases each year. Finally, they avoid the issue of having to contend with the new CBA coming next year???
    One fly in the ointment — if there is a lockout, then an entire year could go up in smoke in Miami planning.
    The new CBA will likely have a tighter budget and this will put the team farther over any cap. This could further strangle Miami’s options to add players around these three.

  5. BigTen - Jul 10, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    Wow, where’s your head at. Are you in love or what. They will all opt out after four years so they can sign back up for more money with the Heat or they will sign contract extensions for more money. With that and building back up their reputations so they can sign endorsement deals they will be just fine. If they don’t win enough or don’t get along then someone will be forced out of the three and be replaced. The best way to beat this super team is to run, run, run on them. There will be no bench and the fourth and fifth starters will be average at best. Run and get those three tired out and winded, take advantage of them on the inside because they won’t have much of a center, bounce them around with some big bodys, get them into foul trouble. By the end of the season these three may be exhausted if teams play them right.

  6. kc - Jul 10, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    jay’s absolutely right. A story like jay is suggesting might also point out the escalators in James’ endorsement deals that raise his money when he goes to a larger market. Sure, he’s probably due a bunch more sponsorships, but even the deals he already has will give him more money being in Miami rather than Cleveland. Smokescreen indeed.
    The only people that will have to “sacrifice” is all those vet FAs who will have to sign for half their worth to play with the Miami Thrice. There will be no middle class in Miami.

  7. joe - Jul 10, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    Miami has given 4 first round picks away over the next 7 years. If this fails, Miami will be pulling tarps out to not only cover the top seats, but maybe even the bottom seats as well.

  8. Gary - Jul 10, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Jay is right on the money. Everybody forgets that LBJ and Wade make a ton more money in endorsements then thier NBA salaries. I read an analysis that stated with FL having no income tax, the savings in endorsement revenue alone makes up for the so called pay cut these guys are taking. And if they win championships, the revenue goes sky high.
    The bigger picture is with these contracts these guys now wield more power then the owners and David Stern himself. Stern has got to be fuming. I bet next CBA removes mid level ezxceptions and other exceptions with a hard cap, thus reducing the future contracts for the players. Owners, coaches, and other players will be gunning for these guys this year. All LBJ, Bosh, and Wade did was hurt other players and the league for the sake of themselves. Media needs to quit cow towing to these egomaniacs and start telling it like it is. This has been planned for four years. These three amigoos want to run the NBA.

  9. LimRickNews - Jul 10, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    A pronouncement in B-Ball from LeBron James.
    It’s Miami that will host his hooping games.
    In Cleveland, they’re mad,
    New York/Chicago, so sad.
    Is he really as good as he claims?
    For more, google “LimRickNews”.

  10. Terry - Jul 10, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    The sophisticated nature of the 3 contracts, signed sealed and delivered the day after the announcement, coupled with Miami’s purging of their existing players, would clearly indicated a few things: 1: Labron’s decision was made weeks ago; 2:There WAS a “summit” amongst the three and 3: Miami was involved in negotiations from the outset, probably before free agency began……”Tampering” anyone?

  11. Shazam - Jul 10, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Other players have left money on the table. Dirk Nowitzki left 16 million on the table. Shaq left 20 million on the table with the extension with Miami. Tim Duncan lett money on the table on both his extensions with San Antonio. This isn’t something new.

  12. Shazam - Jul 10, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    Other players have left money on the table. Dirk Nowitzki left 16 million on the table. Shaq left 20 million on the table with the extension with Miami. Tim Duncan left money on the table on both his extensions with San Antonio. This isn’t something new.

  13. Arin - Jul 10, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    As a tax attorney living in Florida, I’d like to clarify some of the comments about Florida having no state taxes.
    To be precise, Florida has no state INCOME tax. However, to offset that loss of revenue, Florida has one of the higher ad valorem (real property) taxes in the nation, as well as a higher than average sales tax. So, to suggest Florida has no state taxes is incorrect. Is the total tax liability as high as states like NY or CALI? No, likely not. But with the high real property and sales taxes, the total state tax liability is certainly higher than many other states in the nation, even those with state income taxes.
    In short, I doubt the tax consequences had any impact on the BIG 3 selecting Miami.

  14. Matt - Jul 10, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    Before we start the sainthood process for LBJ, he is making $1mil less per year than he would have had he gone to the Bulls or the Knicks. He was leaving the Cavs anyway so you can’t use the max deal numbers in any argument. If it was JUST about winning he would have said give me $25 mil for 5 years so we can get the best players in here to help us win. He didn’t. He took a few dollars less and now we want to crown him Saint LeBron for being so magnanimous. What a joke! With Mike Miller in the fold they have about $9mil for 8 roster spots. Oh yeah and the Heat gave up 6 draft picks as well (4 First rounders & 2 Seconds) Good luck LBJ you are now in one of the worst sport cities in America.

  15. davidly - Jul 10, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Jordan 38.3 .497 .835 6.20 5.3 2.35 .83 2.73 30.1
    James 40.3 .475 .742 7.0 7.0 1.7 .8 3.29 27.8
    Seems the next Jordan doesn’t match up so well. And keep in mind that Jordan’s career numbers include 15 seasons over nineteen years (including 2 forgettable seasons in Washington after a three year hiatus).
    Some might argue that James has his best ahead of him, but I don’t see him making any significant improvements.
    And most key: Jordan won a championship in his seventh season. James had the best record for the second season going, but couldn’t bring it home – and, instead, bolted for another team.
    It’ll be interesting to see how he measures up now.
    CAPTCHA: Meals deserter

  16. jay - Jul 10, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    I don’t understand all the negative postings. Why can’t anybody be happy for these 3 players. There are no headline and debates when a CEO of one company jumps ship for another company and better pay. I live in San Diego. I’m happy for the city of Miami. I am glad these players got their money. I hope they win multiple NBA championships. Best Wishes.

  17. Beppe - Jul 10, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    Who cares what these narcissistic NBA nutjobs do? Does it make your life better or happier? Cause if it does, you need to get a life of your own or seek professional help.

  18. zaglossus - Jul 10, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    People who don’t care about this story shouldn’t be caring enough to come on this board and tell us they don’t care. No I don’t “care” about it either – not in the sense I care about the economy or the war. But I enjoy basketball and this is a big story there.
    I should remind fans that in the late 60’s early 70’s the Lakers had a dream team triumvirate of West, Baylor and Chamberlain and only got 1 NBA title out of it. So those who don’t like Miami but see no hope, there is hope.

  19. Larry - Jul 10, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    You are right. There has been clear and total tampering and collusion by the Heat, Agent Henry Thomas and his agency, and most likely the players and probably Pat Riley. No way this all happened after July first. But when Stern gets what he wants he looks the other way if it is legal or illegal.
    David Stern is a digusting and dishonest man who continues to have 3 convicted felons (income tax evaders) Ken Mauer, Joey Crawford and Bennett Salavatore officiating late into the playoffs. He allowed half his officials to break their contracts and hang in casinos, then changed their contracts so they could stay in casinos. He claimed the league had a sophisticated referee surveilance program yet Tim Donagh alterered and bet on games for 3 years and would still be dong it today if the FBI hadn’t stumbled upon him. He prosecutes playwers and mangement quite differently when he feels like it. He is the lowest form of trash.
    What we know about the league and what it does wrongfully is probably a very small percentage of what really goes on. The draft lottery is still behind closed door. Rememer when it was on TV?
    There have been trades made that were so lopsided it’s hard to believe they weren’t ordered by someone to happen. Can any of the GMs involved on the wrong end of these deals be that stupid. Now they are trying to tell us this all came together after July 1st. These guys all made multiple trips around to make you think there was no tampering. The NBA has one fan who was very skeptical about it’s itegrity and they have lost that fan. I feel very sorry that the “three amigos” are only going to make a guaranteed 110 M dollars apiece. I wonder if that’s enough to keep their lights on and feed their families?

  20. MJ - Jul 10, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Due to injuries those big three only had one full year together, 1968-1969, where they lost the championship in seven games to the Boston Celtics.

  21. Edward - Jul 10, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    Regarding real estate taxes, that’s a one-time tax. State income taxes apply EACH year. So you can’t really say that the players are “losing out” on all their state income tax savings via real estate taxes.

  22. noahshafer - Jul 10, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    He gave up 15 mil and the right to ever be referred as the GOAT. He may have talent but he aint got the stones.

  23. allinall - Jul 10, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    Bigten, i think you have a point, yes miami has 3 really great players, then chalmers, and beasely, WHOOO HOOO!!! thats awesome!! sarcasm, they lost there center who couldve had a good year if he had stayed (just making a guess assuming he got the ball) and then haslem who is aging. i just dont see the supporting cast as being strong, the miama supporting cast never has been strong in my opinion. i agree with what matt posted btw. the heat have given up draft pick, who out there can they get and afford thats any good? ive been a caves fan before LBJ, and i will remain a caves fan (duhh) 3 players to carry a team, and dont comapare them to the celtics, the celtics have there big 3, but also good supporting players, nate robinson, etc.

  24. sls - Jul 10, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    pro athletes are paid according to the state taxes they earn the money in – for example, a game in chicago uses IL state taxes, la uses CA, etc.

  25. Lemonverbeena - Jul 10, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    I’m from Cleveland and first off, I think LeBron gave the fans the big fat shaft, but this you tube video (that I am ashamed I clicked on) is incredibly juvenile and IF LBJ sees it, he’s going to be that much happier for his move. Seriously?
    He left, he’s gone…. move on. Cleveland has survived way worse, and trust me, LBJ is not the end-all for Cleveland. Maybe now Dan Gilbert can put together a team where the success or failure doesn’t rest on one guy.

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