How Long Is the Miami Heat's Championship Window Open?

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIApril 9, 2013

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 30:  (L) Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat, (C) Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat and (R) LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat look at their 2012 NBA Championship rings following a ring giving ceremony prior to the game against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on October 30, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The answer to that question is dependent on one thing—where LeBron decides to take or keep his talents for the rest of his career.

If LeBron decides to solidify his legacy by finishing his career with the Miami Heat then their championship window is open until he retires.

If he instead chooses to leave town for a homecoming in Cleveland or a shocking move to another NBA franchise, the Heat's championship window will abruptly slam shut. 

At the end of the 2013-14 season, LeBron will enter the player options years—2014-15 and 2015-16—of his current contract.

Is it a guarantee that the Heat will retain him? No, but it's also not a guarantee that he'll try to make a move to another NBA city.

Honestly, his decision, in large part, will depend on just how dominant the Heat can be this season and next. So far, that's looking pretty good for Miami's chances of retaining the Chosen One, and keeping their championship window open.

The Heat are the clear favorite to win the NBA title this season, even if they end up with a playoff route that forces them to play either the Indiana Pacers or New York Knicks

With LeBron playing at a ridiculous rate, which includes season averages of 26.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game, it's hard to see anyone getting in the way of a Heat repeat. 

If that happens, and LeBron hoists the 2013 Larry O'Brien Trophy, I honestly can't see him leaving South Beach unless it's much later in his career—even that would be a stretch.

Anyone who follows basketball even just a little bit can understand the extremely negative consequences that leaving Miami would have on LeBron's legacy, especially after he already left an NBA franchise once.

Let's assume that LeBron decides to stay for the rest of his career. That means that at some point he'll most likely be playing in Miami without arguably the greatest player in their franchise history, Dwyane Wade.

At 31 years old and with the nagging injuries Wade always seems to struggle with, there's just no way that he'll be able to play into the latter years of LeBron's career.

It might hurt Heat fans to hear this, but even if Wade begins to deteriorate over the next two or three seasons, it won't impact the Heat's "championship window."

Why is that? Because LeBron's proven this season that he can win games no matter who's on the floor around him.

He's 5-1 this season without Wade in the lineup, and last season he was 12-1 without Wade in the lineup.

No, that doesn't mean that the Heat don't need Wade on their roster. It just shows that LeBron's finally overcome what plagued him in Cleveland—his inability to win with whoever he has around him on the roster. 

If Wade retires or gets released by the Heat, or "insert other end to Wade's Heat career here", the Heat can still win championships without him. And that's because they will have a lot of cash to go out and find their next D Wade in free agency.

Wade hasn't reach the point in his career where he is replaceable, but he's going to reach that point soon. While that's sad for Heat fans, it doesn't impact their chances at winning NBA titles.

As long as LeBron is wearing a No. 6 Heat jersey, and he has four players on the floor with him, the Heat will have a legitimate fighting chance at adding championship banners to their rafters.