Free agency just got a whole lot more interesting.
LeBron James will opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and become a free agent.
James had two years and approximately $42.7 million remaining on his deal with the Heat. The four-time MVP led Miami to two NBA titles and an appearance in the finals during each of his four seasons since famously joining the franchise as a free agent in 2010.
Miami fell and fell hard to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals earlier this month, losing in five games. Despite the impressive back-to-back-to-back-to-back accomplishment, the Heat looked old and undermanned against the Spurs, leading to speculation about Miami's Big 3 - including Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - breaking up or changing course or forcing management to add new pieces.
James opting out could lead to any of the paths, including staying put. The Eastern Conference remains Miami's for the taking should the core stick together. The Heat have the 26th overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft plus some minor flexibility in free agency. They could have a lot more if James, Wade and Bosh agree to stay on more salary cap-friendly deals. The trio would each make $20 million this season with Miami.
Otherwise, every team would trip over themselves to land James, the most physically imposing player in the game. In his first chance at true free agency, James famously left the Cleveland Cavaliers in a very public way. The Ohio native returning home is one storyline worth following, though not if the goal is to contend immediately. Of course any team with James automatically becomes a title threat. Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks are the likely favorites to land James should he decide to take his talents out of Miami.
Could the Wizards get involved? The odds are low, but also better than just about time in the past 20 years. Washington is coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals, are led by a young, dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and have the cap space available. Granted, so does nearly every team in the NBA this offseason. Then again, James does love D.C.
ESPN's Chris Broussard first reported news of James' decision after communicating with agent Rich Paul.