Perhaps we should temporarily table our speculation about where LeBron James will wind up in the event he opts out of his contract this summer of next. Miami Heat owner Micky Arison seems to have little doubt about the matter.
According to The Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser, Arison believes his superstars will stick around:
Based on everyone’s comments throughout the season, everything points toward LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh staying in Miami beyond this season. All three are on long-term deals with the freedom to opt out after this year. The most recent indication that those three will stay, be it through not opting out or by opting out and signing longer contracts, is from owner Micky Arison. When asked Monday by 790 The Ticket to give a percentage chance of keeping them with the Heat, he responded, '100 percent.'
Arison went on to say he hopes re-signing them is "not gonna be a challenge at all."
Of course, it's unclear how much of Arison's thought process is influenced by wishful thinking.
More importantly, now would be a terrible time to show anything less than complete confidence. With his Heat in the midst of a first-round series against the Charlotte Bobcats and pursuing a third straight title, it would be an inopportune juncture to speculate about anyone leaving—even if there were good reason to believe someone might.
Arison's comments seem somewhat inconsistent with what Dwyane Wade indicated earlier this month. According to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, "Wade revealed...that the three, who have gone to three straight Finals and won the past two, plan to have (a) conversation at some point."
Wade said, "When the season is over, and whatever happens, then I will sit down with Chris and I will sit down with Bron and I will sit down and make the best decision for myself and my family."
If there's a conversation yet to be had, that suggests a decision hasn't been made yet—at least not collectively.
On the other hand, Chris Bosh suggested in March that he and James would be sticking around, telling Dan Le Batard on The Dan Le Batard Show "true" when posed with the possibility that he and James would remain with the Heat next season.
Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick notes the importance of Bosh's comment: "While the tone of the interview was light-hearted, and Bosh would have made even bigger news for answering "false," he also could have said 'no comment' or 'can't answer yet,' which would have been consistent with his previous public statements."
Arison will have to pay a hefty price to keep his star trio intact. He'll be subject to the "repeater luxury tax," paying a massive toll for the right to keep such a high-priced roster together.
Nevertheless, the cost of breaking this team up may be even greater down the road. Miami would lose scores of fans and league-wide attention. It's hard to put a price on just how valuable the Big Three are in terms of keeping Miami on the map.