A day after announcing that he will make his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James on Saturday officially signed a two-year, $42.1 million deal with the team, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
There is an opt-out clause after the first season, but James has stated he has a long-term commitment to the organization. The length of deal is set expire prior to the 2016-17 season when the team is expected to get a new television deal that will create a large increase in the amount that can be offered for a maximum contract.
Based on how the new television contracts are structured in 2016, the salary cap threshold could rise to as much as $80 million. This coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the current collective bargaining agreement beginning in 2017 have led James to format a deal that would allow him to keep his options open in regards to putting together his next contract.
James made his decision known through a written letter told by SI.com’s Lee Jenkins on Friday which stated his choice “goes above basketball” and that he is “ready to accept the challenge” that awaits him in Cleveland.
“I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. Want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”
“I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”
James’ addition to Cleveland has shifted the landscape of the NBA, which is evident by the movement across the league in the free agency period in the past two days following his announcement. His long-awaited decision had the rest of the free agent market on standby as they wanted to see where the four-time league MVP would land first.
Since Friday other top free agents have made their choices on where they will play next season. His former teammate Chris Bosh has agreed to re-sign with the Miami Heat under a contract worth $118 million over the next five seasons. Carmelo Anthony has decided to return to the New York Knicks on a five-year, $122 million deal. Pau Gasol has chosen to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and sign a multi-year deal with the Chicago Bulls.
It has also had an effect on Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love, who is set to become a free agent next offseason, to consider signing a long-term contract with the Cavaliers if he is dealt there. However, it appears any trade between both teams would require the addition of this year’s first overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, but multiple reports suggest Cleveland does not want to make him part of any transaction.
James’ former team Miami Heat have begun the rebuilding process by inking several players to deals such as Bosh, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts. They also signed both Mario Chalmers and Luol Deng on Sunday to two-year contracts respectively. The team is expected to retain Dwyane Wade to a multi-year deal and has already signed their first round draft choice in former UConn guard Shabazz Napier.
James had a highly successful four-year tenure with the Heat that featured a trip to the Finals in each season with the team claiming two NBA titles. During that span, he also achieved several personal accolades as he won two NBA MVP awards, was named to the All-NBA First Team four times, selected to All-NBA Defensive First Team three times, and earned an All-Star selection in each season.
Both Wade and Bosh on Saturday commented on James’ decision to leave Miami. Wade stated that, “LeBron made the right decision for himself and his family because home is where your heart is.”
Bosh told ESPN.com that he has “no bitter feelings” toward James and that the two were “going to be brothers regardless.”
Photo Credit: Walter Iooss Jr./SI