It doesn’t seem like it was very long ago that LeBron James decided to join the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. Well, as soon as next season concludes, LeBron will have another important decision to make; he can stay with the Heat or opt-out of his six-year deal from 2010 and become a free agent.
So, will he?
Let's examine LeBron's potential reasoning behind both of his possible choices (opting out or opting in), and then we'll make a final verdict on what he will ultimately do.
Why LeBron Won't Opt-Out
If LeBron were to stay, it could be—in part—from his desire to prevent creating a free-agency experience similar to the one that occurred in 2010. The media tracked his every word and move, and it's possible LeBron just doesn't want to have to live through all of that hoopla again.
It also can't be ignored that fanbases turned on LeBron after he decided to join Miami. It wasn't just Cleveland Cavalier fans who felt slighted when he joined the Heat; fan bases of teams who attempted to sign LeBron, such as the New York Knicks, also felt that LeBron betrayed them. It's possible that LeBron simply doesn't want to give other fanbases the false hope of him joining their team, which an opt-out would certainly do, when his only reason for opting out is to secure five years of maximum money with the Heat.
Also, if Miami is where he wants to be, LeBron may not want to irritate the fans who pay to see him every night by giving them the impression that he is contemplating a change of scenery. In a sense, LeBron would really be making a big statement of how he regards the city and organization if he were to not even afford himself the opportunity to explore other options.
It's seems very improbable that Wade will opt-out of his current contract in 2014 because he will be 32 years old at the time, so there's little to no chance that he would command a contract that is more lucrative than his current one.
LeBron doesn't have that problem; every team in the NBA with enough money would be willing to offer him a maximum-length contract. If LeBron didn't want to make his buddy look inferior by being under a superior contract than he might not want to opt-out.
Why LeBron Will Opt-Out
Barring serious injury, whether LeBron wants to stay in Miami or whether he's considering leaving town, it benefits him financially to opt-out.
Due to his talent and age (he will be 29 years old by the summer of 2014), LeBron has all the leverage. If LeBron were to opt-out, the Heat would undoubtedly respond by offering him a five-year long maximum dollar contract. So, if LeBron's ultimate goal was to continue playing in Miami, opting out would easily be the best decision financially as it would result in him being signed to the team for three more years (at maximum money) after his current contract expires.
Regardless of whether he takes advantage of it or not, opting out also gives LeBron the option to explore the possibility of playing someplace other than Miami.
Maybe the Heat don't win a championship this year or the next, maybe Wade's ability at age 32 has severely declined and he and LeBron are not as potent of a duo or maybe there's another team with a couple of stars that can afford him; it seems very unlikely right now, but there is at least a possibility that in the summer of 2014 staying in Miami isn't the right long-term move for LBJ.
Simply put, though, opting out in 2014 is unquestionably a better decision for LeBron from a financial standpoint.
LeBron will almost certainly opt-out of his current contract in 2014. The reasoning for him potentially opting in is emotion based, but it just isn't smart to make a business decision based solely on emotion.
LeBron knows this. He did what was best for him when he left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, and he'll do what's best for him in 2014.
However, due to all the success LeBron has had and seemingly will continue to have in Miami leading up to 2014 as well as how close he seems to be with the organization, expect him to soon thereafter re-sign with Miami for five more years.