Todd Kirkland/Associated Press
LeBron James has another decision to mull this summer.
At this point, LeBron James seems unlikely to leave the Heat.
They have won, are winning, and—especially in these last few weeks—are winning big.
The franchise that seemed the most serious threat to poach him from South Beach—or at least the one that made the most narrative sense, the Cleveland Cavaliers—has collapsed under the weight of its own incompetence. Cleveland is out, and no other organization seems like an obvious fit.
Furthermore, would LeBron, after the debacle that was “The Decision,” really want to make himself a pariah again by leaving another fanbase that had grown to love him? Would he expose himself to such rancor?
After his first—and, if the prayers of the Heat faithful are answered, last—professional move, James was aware of the criticism. After his first trying season in Miami, he said the criticism stung in a way he seems reluctant to revisit, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst:
I play the game fun, joyful...That's what I lost last year. Going through my first seven years in the NBA I was always the ‘liked one’ and to be on the other side—they call it the dark side or the villain or whatever they call it—it was definitely challenging for myself. It was a situation I had never been in before, and it took awhile...it took a long time to adjust to it.
And yet James has equivocated a bit on this point. He told NBATV’s Steve Smith that he can’t imagine leaving the Heat if Miami wins a third consecutive title this June, which begs the question: What if the team falls short?
In a much-discussed and well-reported piece on ESPN, Windhorst and Ramona Shelbourne gamed out a few scenarios that could lead to James’ departure from Miami.
"This time is going to be different," a source with ties to James’ camp told the pair. "If LeBron decides to look at other options, it won't just be teams with cap space. He has 30 options if he wants them."
The reporters identified the Los Angeles Clippers as a team that, despite a dearth of cap room, could swoop in and land a willing James via a sign and trade.
Again, it seems unlikely at this juncture that he would leave all he has—all he’s built—in Miami to start from scratch elsewhere with a pair of new superstar teammates. Sounds familiar, huh?