LeBron James is about to keep the basketball-loving world in suspense for the second time in four years. Only this time, James enters potential free agency with two championships and four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
James has the option of opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any team. The Heat are coming off a lopsided 4-1 series defeat to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals — leading some to speculate that the much-hyped days of James, Chris Bosh and a breaking-down Dwyane Wade may have reached an end.
James shot down questions about his future immediately following the Heat’s Game 5 loss, but was a little more open about things during a season-ending interview with Miami reporters Tuesday.
"The decision comes down to me and my family, at the end of the day," James said. "If my family is happy, I’m happy."
James added he has a vacation planned with that very family, and will use the time to contemplate his future. He said he hasn’t yet begun "to wrap my mind around" how this summer may play out.
"For me, I just want to win," he said. "That’s all that matters to me."
LeBron, of course, has won wherever he’s gone. He spent the first seven years of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading the franchise to its lone title appearance in 2007, as well as back-to-back seasons of 60-plus wins in 2009 and 2010.
He’s 2-2 in the Finals with the Heat — and with Wade occasionally laboring and Bosh at times struggling, speculation has begun that James could return to a younger Cavs team that features All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
At the same time, James left the Cavs for the Heat in 2010, and as his teammate Mario Chalmers (an unrestricted free agent himself) insisted Tuesday, "Nobody wants to leave South Florida."
James did compare his situation today to the one four years ago, but only to say he feels more relaxed about it.
"I feel more at ease this time … 2010 was out of control," he said.
Most around the league believe James will at least opt out to explore all options. He hinted as much Tuesday.
"Being able to have flexibility as a professional, that’s what we all would like," he said.
James averaged 27.1 points in the regular season and 27.4 in the playoffs, shooting 56 percent in both. He said he will discuss the future with Bosh and Wade at some point this summer. He added he does not, however, necessarily need to visit with Heat management.
"I understand what this team, this franchise, brings to the table," he said, later admitting that work is needed on the Heat roster.
"We have some holes that need to be filled," he said.
Seven Miami players are unrestricted free agents, and that doesn’t include James, Bosh, Wade, center Chris Andersen and forward Udonis Halsem — each of whom can opt out of their current deals.