Want to know the main reason LeBron James chose to opt out of the last year of his contract with the Heat? Because he was horribly underpaid.
The Heat are still the overwhelming favorites to land LeBron for the 2014-2015 season and beyond. James decision to opt out of his current contract was about two things. First: to get paid more, and second: to put pressure on Pat Riley to upgrade the Heat’s roster. Let’s take a look at that first reason.
LeBron took a serious pay cut in order to join forces with Bosh and Wade in Miami. All three players took $15 million less over the life of their contracts than they could’ve earned elsewhere in order to play together. But now, with an aging Dwyane Wade in rapid decline, LeBron is clearly the top dog in Miami. As such, there’s no good reason for him to keep sacrificing pennies.
If LeBron opted in on the final year of his contract, he would have made $20.5 million this season. That’s a ridiculous amount of money, to be sure, but it doesn’t match the value he brings to a team. As this chart illustrates, a $20.5 million salary would have meant James made less money next year than the likes of Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson:
On to the second reason LeBron opted out. It became abundantly clear during the 2014 Finals that the Heat desperately need to upgrade their roster.
Outside of the Big Three, Miami was trotting out either uninspiring or past their prime players like Norris Cole, Chris Anderson, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier onto the court. As the whole world saw, that won’t cut it against squads like San Antonio. But as long as James, Bosh, and Wade were under their old contracts, Pat Riley and Miami management had little to no money to upgrade the roster with. If James and Bosh sign new long-term deals and Dwyane Wade takes a much-deserved pay cut, the Heat will suddenly have plenty of money to bring in a few quality free agents.
Of course, there’s still a chance that a new team approaches LeBron with a dream scenario and pries him away from South Beach. He is a free agent, after all. Just keep in mind that his decision to opt out of his current contract has little to do with his desire to stay with the Heat.