Apparently Pat Riley's postseason press conference challenge had no impact on LeBron James. The four-time NBA MVP has reportedly opted out of his contract to test the free-agent waters, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard:
LeBron James' agent Rich Paul has told Heat LeBron will exercise early termination option— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 24, 2014
With LeBron now on the market, forgoing the final two years and more than $42 million left on his six-year deal with Miami, CNN's Rachel Nichols summed up what the summer will look like now:
Let the craziness begin. RT @Chris_Broussard: LeBron James' agent Rich Paul has told Heat LeBron will exercise early termination option— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 24, 2014
ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh proved that the tweets with the most impact don't try to be overly cute or sensationalistic, just stating the obvious and getting out of the way:
Four most powerful words in the NBA: free agent LeBron James.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 24, 2014
For the first time in their professional careers, as Fox Sports Live pointed out, LeBron and Carmelo Anthony are on the market together:
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are both unrestricted free agents. Let that sink in for a second.— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) June 24, 2014
While we won't know the definite plans for LeBron or Anthony until free agency begins on July 1, it's no secret that those two are close. They came into the league together in 2003, LeBron directly out of high school and Anthony after leading Syracuse to a national title.
In 2012, ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst wrote about their journey toward the NBA a decade earlier and how a high school game between the two made them both instant superstars.
Even though we have to wait for The Decision 2.0, Jeff Lowe provided a handy guide to what LeBron will look like in your favorite team's uniform to save you the suspense of waiting for him to sign a new contract:
Mad Libs: LeBron taking his talents to (insert city name). pic.twitter.com/jRUJnAKS0A— Jeff D Lowe (@JeffDLowe) June 24, 2014
However, according to Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick, LeBron's decision doesn't exactly spell the end of his tenure in Miami:
Re: ESPN report about LeBron opting out... It wasn't a surprise to Heat. Expected him to weigh options. Doesn't mean he's leaving (1/2)...— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 24, 2014
... (2/2) No risk to LeBron by doing so. And all the information I've gathered is that the Heat are still in strong position to retain him.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 24, 2014
Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio notes that LeBron will not take this free agency lightly, listening to offers from the Heat and others around the league at some point:
Along with meeting with Heat, LeBron James will indeed listen to pitches from several other teams. Those meetings not yet arranged.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) June 24, 2014
Even the United States men's soccer team made a pitch for James to join them prior their vital game against Germany:
The NFL also made its pitch to James following the news:
Going back to the now-infamous Riley press conference, ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor made a great point about the power of LeBron and NBA players in general:
Love how LeBron James answered Riley's ol' "Winner Within" bunk -- Just shut up and get me some players, Pat. Or else.— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) June 24, 2014
Riley talked about James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade's impending decisions on free agency, saying he didn't feel the need to recruit any of the talented trio, per ESPN.com's Michael Wallace. "I don't think we've got to recruit Chris, Dwyane or LeBron," Riley said. "I'm not dropping rings on the table for those guys. They could drop their own."
Aaron Goldhammer of ESPNCleveland.com noted how the power dynamic between LeBron and Riley has shifted in their four years together:
Four years ago, LeBron needed Riley. Now, Riley needs LeBron...— Aaron Goldhammer (@HammerNation19) June 24, 2014
LeBron is always going to face criticism, so he might as well put himself in the best position to win titles while ignoring what the outside world says. This move is a directive to Riley and the rest of the NBA to prove they can build a championship team.
Of course, no player can change the direction of a franchise like LeBron. The Heat, as currently constituted, still give him the best chance to compete for a championship, especially in the Eastern Conference, which only had two teams win more than 50 games in 2014.
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