For those looking from the outside wondering if LeBron James will re-sign with the Miami Heat or go elsewhere now that he has opted out of his contract, James must have cooperation from his partners Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in order for the Heat to reload. Unless the other two members of the Big Three opt out with James, then both will be due over $20 million next season and restocking the team with talent and depth will be solely dependent on James making a financial sacrifice. Although James is a marketing juggernaut and makes more money off the court than he does through team salary, making a lonely multi-million dollar salary concession to keep Micky Arison out of severe luxury tax territory appears unlikely.
Some have already theorized that Micky Arison saving money this past season placed too much of a burden on James. Bosh has made sacrifices in basketball terms by playing center more often than he would prefer. Wade always leaves everything on the court, but many wonder if his best days are now behind him due to his hard-driving playing style. Both Bosh and Wade could feel that they should be paid their full salaries next season, and place the burden on Arison and Pat Riley to hold the Big Three together and add more talent to the team. As apparent in the NBA Finals, the Heat need a point guard, another big man and quality depth. Adding all those pieces will not be possible unless the Big Three take a pay cut for next season or Arison pays a significant luxury tax.
One thing that seems most unlikely is that LeBron James makes financial accommodations himself, without Big Three partner cooperation, in order to allow the Miami Heat to reload. A diminished Dwyane Wade likely could not obtain his full Heat salary elsewhere next season. Bosh probably would have options to achieve a similar salary, but he has indicated he prefers to stay in South Beach. Even if James does not need the money, his friendship with Wade and Bosh likely would not extend to leaving millions on the table for their benefit and certainly not for the benefit of Arison.
Pat Riley has made of point of challenging James’ guts as a strategy to obtain his signature on a new deal. Now that LeBron James has opted out of his contract, Riley needs to jump on Wade and Bosh as soon as possible to opt out as well. If they are not opting out and James is the only one negotiating the terms for return, then James likely will not want to make the sacrifices that Arison and Riley would like so they can bulk up the roster. James is not only a great basketball player, he is also a smart businessman. Good businessmen do not make sacrifices by themselves for the benefit of others. If Bosh and Wade fail to opt out, then LeBron James will take his game elsewhere.
Commentary by William Costolo