The most loved, then hated, then loved athlete in Ohio has thrown his fans for another loop. ESPN reported LeBron James has decided to opt out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He will be a free agent July 1 when the NBA's free agency period officially begins.
But before you get up to get the lighter fluid and your Cavs jersey, realize the three-time NBA MVP is probably making this move for financial, rather than competitive reasons. A rich TV deal the NBA signed with its broadcasting partners goes into effect after next season, and when it does, the salary cap for all 30 NBA teams will rise dramatically, from about $66 million per team this coming season to more than $88 million per team.
That gives players like James a unique opportunity to make a lot of money very quickly. By opting out of the final year of his current contract, which would pay him a bit more than $21 million, James can sign a one-year deal this offseason that pays slightly more, then sign a brand new one in 2016 that could wind up paying him $30 million per season. Though James is one of just a handful of NBA players with the clout to do this, many NBA stars, including James’s teammate, Kevin Love, Portland Trail Blazer power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol will be angling for something similar when free agency begins Wednesday.
While such a big leap in salary would be great for anybody, James will still be raking in more money from advertising partners than he makes from the Cavs. Thanks to deals with companies including Nike, McDonald's and Coca Cola, James made $42 million from endorsements last year, Forbes reported.