A more pessimistic observer would claim LeBron James plans to turn every summer into his own personal free agency feting period, but his decision to sign with the Cavs on Saturday for a reported two-year, $42.1 million deal, and a player option for next summer, has more to do with a new NBA television contract, and the league’s tenuous collective bargaining agreement (CBA) than it does with him giving him an out if the Cleveland decision doesn’t pan out.
Brian Windhorst for ESPN reports that James plans to re-sign after the 2015-16 season when the new television contract is likely to significantly ameliorate the salary cap.
The deal does give James a player option for next summer when he could again become a free agent, but a source tells Windhorst James is full committed to the Cavs long term.
Contingent on how the new television contracts are put together, the salary cap — which was just reportedly raised to $63.065 million by the NBA — could jump to as much as $80 million in 2016. Aside from a significant jump in the cap two summers from now, there’s a growing sense the NBPA could opt out of the CBA when they’re provided that option after the 2016 season. The 2011 CBA, which the owners won handily, shaving 7 percent from the player’s basketball-related income (BRI), going from 57/43 in favor of the players to 50/50 — was for 10 years, but with an option for the owners or the player’s union to opt out. Many predict the players, especially, will do just that.
Estimates place LeBron’s off-court earnings with Nike, Powerade, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Samsung around $40 million per year, so he’s got some financial cushioning to protect himself against the the risks inherent in taking a shorter-term deal.
James has earned $129 million on the court through 11 seasons, but was only paid the max amount three times in that span and was outspoken about wanting a max deal when he opted out of his contract with Miami in June.
While there is some short-term risk in a deal of this nature, it could be a long-term win as long as he stays healthy and continues, at age 29, to dominate on the court. James’ piece for Sports Illustrated announcing his decision to return to Cleveland, a short ways from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, made it clear he plans to finish his career with Cleveland as he seeks to bring them their first championship. The two-year deal with a player option next summer is only designed to give him options to maximize his on-court earning potential with so many external factors in play.
What do you think?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.