MIAMI — LeBron James delivered his message loud and clear, without actually saying a word.
He’s willing to leave Miami, if that’s what it will take to win more championships. And what happens next will likely be up to not just the Heat, but Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as well.
Through his agent, James informed the Heat on Tuesday that he has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract, a move that means he becomes a free agent on July 1. He will be able to sign with any team, including Miami, and Heat President Pat Riley said he “fully expected” James to take advantage of his early termination option.
The Heat have been preparing for this for some time. James, Wade and Bosh all got six-year contracts when they teamed up in Miami in July 2010, the last time free agency was accompanied by the sort of frenzy that will envelop the league over the next few weeks. But each of those deals came with options to leave either this summer or in 2015, in part to allow both the players and the team to have financial flexibility.
James — who averaged 27.1 points this past season — was owed $42.7 million for the next two seasons, though that seems irrelevant in the sense that he’ll be getting plenty of money from the Heat or someone else for years to come. If he stays with Miami, he could sign a deal that would give the team room to maneuver within the structures of the salary cap and luxury-tax threshold.
So could Wade and Bosh, if they choose to opt out as well — and if both do, Miami would potentially have plenty of cash to spend on roster upgrades. Neither has announced their plans, though both have previously said they want to remain in Miami.