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A potentially simple explanation for LeBron James opting out

Jun 24, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

Why did LeBron James opt out?

Maybe to make more money.

I expect LeBron to explore his options, mostly just to make the Heat jealous. That way, he can apply pressure on Micky Arison to spend more money.

Unlike Carmelo Anthony, who automatically accepted a lower 2014-15 salary by opting out, LeBron could make more next season.

[MORE: LeBron’s seven most likely landing spots]

LeBron’s current contract calls for a 2014-15 salary of $20,590,000. With a projected salary cap of $63.2 million, he stands to make $20,659,633 in the first-year of a new max contract. He’d also make more – $22,209,105 vs. $22,112,500 – in the second year.

Here’s LeBron’s max salary on a new max contract (gold) and salary on his existing deal (red):


2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
New max $20,659,633 $22,209,105 $23,758,578 $25,308,050 $26,857,523
Existing $20,590,000 $22,112,500

I doubt LeBron is preoccupied with making an additional $69,633 next season (and $96,605 if he stayed in contract the year after).

LeBron is positioned to listen to other pitches, pressure Arison, take a pay cut to make room for other players and/or make more money. Opting out gives him options.

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If he wanted to opt in, why do that rather than opting out and re-signing a two-year deal with a player option for those slightly higher amounts? His flexibility and the Heat’s ability to sign free agents would remain identical.

LeBron had a chance to give himself a small raise. He might have different aspirations, but he’s at least keeping that door open. I doubt many of us would reject that opportunity.

  1. therealhtj - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Simmons and the Grantland Boston Homer crew are scrambling in overdrive to figure out a way this means Lebron and Klove end up in Green.

  2. thirdistheworrd - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    We all have very different attitudes towards LeBron. But from a very objective perspective I don’t see it quite as negative or selfish as the these articles have painted it. LeBron has money. He has all the money he’ll ever need– what he wants is rings. As it stands, the Heat are incapable of being a really good team. But if the Big Three all restructure for smaller contracts, they could bring in the pieces they need to have a dominant team– a team that will win, rather than a team that has a very good chance to win.

    2.69 mil vs 2.2 mil? Really? The man makes 200 grand for posing with a Big Mac.

    • chitownmatt - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      A team that “will” win is the last thing the NBA needs right now.

      4 straight years of the Heat winning in the East is already taking a toll on fans.

      • mazblast - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        Stern is gone. We no longer no in advance who is likely if not already set to win.

      • mazblast - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:43 PM


        darned fingers!

      • thirdistheworrd - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        Agreed entirely, I’m just speculating on LeBron’s thought process. I’m not a Miami fan by any means, and really don’t want this move to create an unstoppable Miami squad, not at all– I’m just saying that Lebron would like to see that happen. Point being, I don’t think he’s opting out to for five more Ferraris over the next five years, he’s opting out for five rings over the next five years. Knock on wood that doesn’t happen, but yeah, we’re in agreement here.

    • bougin89 - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:27 PM

      And what lead you to the conclusion that the Heat are incapable of being a really good team?

      Was it 4 straight finals trips?

      Was it the 2 rings they won inbetween those two finals trips?

      Is it the best player in the NBA?

      Their inability to recruit minimum or near minimun veterans like Ray Allen, Battier, Birdman, Rashard Lewis?

      • thirdistheworrd - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        Nah bro, you aren’t hearing me– a really good team. If term “center” is tossed loosely around Bosh, Birdman, Haslem, and Rashard Lewis, you are not a really good team. When playing “small ball” is having Cole and Chalmers on the floor at the same time, you are not a really good team. A really good team doesn’t drop four straight in the Finals, a really good team doesn’t take more than four games to beat the Nets in the playoffs. As good as the Big Three are, and as good a coach as Spoelstra is, they won’t be a really good team until they become a more balanced team.

        When the Big Three first showed up in Miami, everyone thought they would be unstoppable. They are not unstoppable. Ergo, I think LeBron’s plan here is to give them more flexibility for creating a true five ring juggernaut. I have nothing against the Heat, it’s just how basketball works.

      • bougin89 - Jun 25, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        They had enough talent to win this year, if anything they looked drained(other than Lebron) from 4 straight trips to the finals. There is a big reason that (I believe) it’s only been done by two teams because it’s really, really hard. Going to the finals 4 straight years and winning two rings IS a really good team. The Spurs this year could have beat just about any team ever with how well they played. Don’t take credit away from them by saying the Heat aren’t a really good team.

  3. kghane - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    LeBron has many endorsements and grossed around double his salary just from advertising last year. I would highly doubt money would be the deciding factor. I think his opting out had more so to do with pressuring the front office & Wade & Bosh. Then again, LeBron is highly underpaid so I would understand if he wants more for all he has done.

  4. cfos00 - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    If someone came to you in your job and gave you two options, with option A was that you could either get a raise at your company or pick any other company you wanted to work at and option B being you stay where you are, do nothing, and have no hope of a raise or change in who you are working with/management, what would you do? Everyone would pick option A every day or the week and twice on Sunday. LeBron just chose option A. He’s not doing anything literally any one of us wouldn’t do. It doesn’t mean he’s leaving or staying, it just means he wants to put himself in the best position to make the best decision for himself.

  5. wupsumskul - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    4 finals. 2 championships. Pat Riley. No eastern conference team came close to challenging heat this year. Why would he go anywhere else? It’s already been established that it’s his team.

    • jxt2521 - Jun 24, 2014 at 12:58 PM

      For a challenge…. no wait that’s not really his style.

      • wupsumskul - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM

        Getting the Heat back on top is going to be challenging enough.

      • packergator - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        ‘Cause after all, getting to four straight Finals is so damn easy.

  6. stoutfiles - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    The simple explanation is to make sure the Heat go over the luxury tax to sign players. LeBron is taking less money to not have to carry the team, yet this year he had to because the owner refuses to spend more money.

  7. sumkat - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    This is my explanation. They took the discount last time, and they’ve been unable to consistently put a decent bench around the big 3. Why stay on the discounted contract if it’s going to be the big 3 and filler/guys that take discounts? You can get those even if the big 3 are getting the max

    I think he either wants a max deal (and a nice raise) or he wants the Heat to show him they are going to put better support around them before he takes the discounted contract

  8. antistratfordian - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    James absolutely did not opt out to give himself a tiny raise. That’s ridiculous.

    • bougin89 - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      I don’t know, Anti, he’s really worried about that $69,633! lol

  9. seasickcecil - Jun 24, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    Money? He made 30 million when Apple bought Beats!

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