July 8, 2014
Dave Brown serves as a special contributor to CHANNEL 5 Sports and updates his Overtime blog on a regular basis for www.krgv.com/sports.
When Lebron James sneezes, the rest of the pro basketball world gets a cold. With the reigning world's best player on the loose as a free agent, and in his prime, the ripple effect takes hold on his teammates, the Miami Heat, the rest of the NBA, and even Las Vegas. Why? Because the world's best basketball player is hungry. He wouldn't be the top dog if he lacked the competitive spirit. And after losing in the recent NBA finals 4-1 to the the Spurs, Lebron is now 2-and-3 on the championship stage. That has to sting.
James is now using his leverage to construct a better working environment. To win big. To get paid, even though endorsements have swelled Lebron's net worth. He has opted out of his Miami contract to either: a) allow the Heat to restructure his contract like Tim Duncan's to give the team room to improve the roster or, b) test the waters to see if a better situation is out there with another team. Could his new team be the old team he left four years ago under such controversial conditions? Could he forgive Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert for the bitterness expressed after James made "the Decision" to bolt his home state for South Beach in Florida?
Some fans believe he could, and are backing up their opinions with cash. Bettors in Las Vegas have sliced the futures odds on the Cavs winning the 2015 title from longshot status at 60-to-1 to a ridiculous proposition based on the current roster. One legal sports book says only the defending champ Spurs and Chicago Bulls have seen more action than the Cavaliers simply because the rumor is out there that Lebron might want to go home.
Lebron James' first "decision" took Miami to four straight NBA finals and a pair of championships. His decision to opt out of his contract led the way for teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to opt out of their contracts, as well. Wade has left significant guaranteed money on the table. If James leaves Miami, Wade's decision to opt out, while helpful for the Heat's rebuilding effort, won't do much for his wallet. The combination of age and unsure health will hamper his value if he tries to leave Miami. For his part, Bosh, a native Texan, is reportedly listening to other offers, one from the Houston Rockets. Just a month ago, Bosh asserted he would only return to play in Miami. Now, a maximum contract in Houston, to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden, could change his mind.
Lebron James is his own man. There is no way to predict which way he will turn in an attempt to win more NBA championships. He will always be judged as one of the game's greatest players, regardless of his record in NBA finals. But at this time, Lebron has the power to influence his future. I believe he will choose loyalty to Wade, Bosh, and Miami and return to play for the Heat. Until he makes his choice, all bets are off.more »