Note: This article will not detail thoughts on where LeBron James will end up signing this summer. For those thoughts, please check out the latest audio version of The Weatha Report here.
Around 8am CST on Tuesday June 24, 2014 I received an ESPN alert on my phone. I glanced down and read that LeBron James' agent had informed the Miami Heat of his client's intentions of opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent. This news set off alarms and whistles across all sorts of platforms. Channels such as ESPN and Fox Sports became all LeBron all the time. Setting up scenarios in which different "teams" were allowed to throw out their best pitch in order to get King James to sign with their teams. Social media was turned on it's head as everything from "Miami Heat" to "bandwagon Heat fans" began to trend. My reaction when I read the alert?
:Kanye shrug and yawn:
Not because I was tired, but instead because this wasn't news at all. This was an expected development. I fully expected to hear that LeBron James had opted out. Just like I fully expect to hear that Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have both opted out. Just like I wasn't surprised when Carmelo Anthony opted out. Its why you negotiate an opt out clause in your contract....so you can utilize it. Seems like a completely astute and shrewd move on the part of a player that is universally regarded as not just the best player on the planet, but also a smart business man.
Numerous text messages and conversations would follow throughout the day, all met with a nonchalant response.
"What's wrong with you? Isn't this a big deal?"
Well, yes and no. Allow me to explain.
Why LeBron opting out is not a big deal
Let's play a game. Your name for this game is Jim. And you, Jim, work at Joe's Computer Repair Shop. Your boss is the owner, appropriately named Joe. You two have a good working relationship. Over the last four years your partnership has resulted in the company being recognized as one of the top two computer repair shops in your city. Two of those years even resulted in the title of being the best repair shop in the city. The last year resulted in a devastating loss of the title to a rival repair company, but for the most part things are good. Sure, the surrounding cast of employees needs to be updated but there are two repairmen that are considered two of the best around. Hey, it could be worse right?
When it is time for your employee evaluation you are approached by Joe, who gives you two options:
Option 1: Opt in and stay with the current contract you're working on for another year. It's guaranteed to pay throughout the 12 months. At the end of the year, you have to renegotiate for another contract either with Joe or another company. Not a bad option at all.
Option 2: Opt out of the contract, sign a new five year contract with Joe's company with the option to opt out of that one after four years, getting a raise in salary each year, with all five years being guaranteed.
I think the majority of us would select option 2. Lebron doesn't repair computers, that we know of, and his bosses go by the names Mickey Arison and Pat Riley. But I'm sure you get the comparison. Simply put, it is a smart business decision for LeBron or any high profile athlete to opt out of a deal and to take a new deal. Remember, basketball contracts are fully guaranteed for the most part. Once LeBron signs that deal, with whichever team he signs with, he will get all of that money whether he gets injured halfway through or plays the string out. The former MVP doesn't seem to be hurting for money, but you still take the security of a new deal with multiple years as opposed to playing on what essentially works out to be a one year deal. After all, you can't put a price tag on security.
Why LeBron opting out is a big deal
Even though I was indifferent to the news, I'm not oblivious to it. I understand that there is a flip side to it all. It was thought that Wade, James, and Bosh would all get together and discuss the courses of action that they would take. On Tuesday, James acted solo with Wade saying that there was nothing to report on his end. Is LeBron doing things on his own terms? Have the Big 3 talked about this scenario and it is all apart of a calculated plan on their part? No one seems to know at this point.
I also recognize that LeBron James is not just the biggest fish in the free agency pond, but that he is the biggest fish in the biggest lake in the world. James isn't called The Chosen One because the moniker is catchy. He's the best player in the world and the face of the NBA. When he makes a move, it creates ripples in the lake known as the NBA. Essentially by throwing his hat in the free agency ring, it prevents other high profile free agents (read: Carmelo) from making any moves at this point. Basically, everyone is frozen until LeBron decides to put pen to paper for a team. Once the biggest domino falls, the rest will follow. And, of course, the biggest reason why this could be a big deal...LeBron could shift the balance of power in the NBA. While we won't get a television special announcing his plans, it is clear that his decision will be anticipated.
The free agency period in the NBA doesn't start until July 1st, but the maneuvering has already started. It is always news when the face of the league is announcing his unemployment, and is waiting to be courted by billionaires waiting to make him even richer while showing him detailed plans on how his championship ring collection can improve under their watch. However, at the end of the day this isn't news. The news didn't start when LeBron's agent informed the Miami Heat brass that the star was opting out. On the contrary, the news starts when LeBron's agent tells a team that his client is bringing (or keeping) his considerable talents to their organization. The fun may have begun, but the news.....well, that will have to wait until after July begins.