The Cleveland Cavaliers recently made it official that LeBron James would be returning to his hometown and original team by inking a two-year, $42 million contract with the team. Immediately, speculation arose whether or not LeBron James would dart after returning for just two years. My phone buzzed continuously – even more so than when Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated dropped “The Letter” Friday afternoon – with friends and family questioning, “Well, looks like he’s not committed to this young team long term,” and “It was just too good to be true.”
Then, after reading further into the terms of the contract, Cavs fans started to contemplate the reality of LeBron James’ return even further. At the end of next season, there’s an option for LeBron James to opt out of his contract with the Cavaliers and test free agency, which, rightfully so, has cast some doubt into the minds of Cleveland fans.
That’s when I challenged my peers to read the whole article that Brian Windhorst posted on the specifics – the what and why – of LeBron’s contract with the Cavs. There’s a monetary reason behind The King’s short-term contract with Cleveland, and it should ease the minds of those who jumped to the conclusion that there was something fishy about the deal.
There are two big things that will be happening in the 2016 and ’17 offseasons that makes sense of LeBron’s two-year contract with the Cavaliers: the league’s television contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement respectively. It’s obvious that James’ agents are weary of these two important off-the-court events, as they’re just looking out for LeBron and the max money that he has the opportunity to make.
To put some things into perspective regarding the current state of the CBA, in 2005 NBA players received 57 percent of the league’s income. But when the 2011 lockout occurred, owners wanted to reduce this number to 47 percent while the players fought for 53. As you know, eventually the two sides came to an agreement, and the players now receive a revenue split around the 49-50 percent range. If talks aren’t necessary, the next CBA discussion won’t happen until 2021. But if players and owners feel the need to make yet another change, the 2017 offseason will be the setting for those talks.
This is a roll of the dice for LeBron (in a way). The amount of revenue that NBA players receive could be negotiated upward or downward come 2017, so it might mean that LeBron could be missing out on more money if the next CBA isn’t advantageous in regards to the percentage of the league’s income that the players receive. But LeBron could also capitalize on the situation if things fall in the favor of NBA players. The money that max players could make, along with the possible rise of the salary cap, could result in a bigger payday for LeBron James. Not that he needs it (LeBron makes more than $40 million per year in off-the-court earnings), but an agent’s job isn’t to look out for the most possible money that a player can make. Rich Paul and Mark Termini – LeBron’s Cleveland-based agent and lead negotiator respectively – are just looking out for the best monetary interest.
First and foremost, the new NBA television deal could result in the salary cap reaching an expected $80 million. For the 2014-15 season, the salary cap jumped up to $63 million from $59 million a season prior. Again, agents have to look into the long-term earnings for their clients, so Paul is just planning for the future and helping arguably the greatest athlete in the world make the most money possible. Something to take into account are the amount of times that LeBron has earned a max contract throughout his 11-season NBA career: Three. As you may already know, LeBron took a “pay cut” when he teamed up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami.
This should ease Cleveland fans a bit more, but something – far away from the business end of things – that should make the Cavs fan base more comfortable is the letter that LeBron James penned to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. A long time ago LeBron promised that he would bring a championship to Cleveland; he just didn’t say when and what his plans would be until that day came. After reaching the NBA Finals for four straight years and relieving some of the pressure off of his shoulders by collecting two rings, The King has returned to his initial throne and will eventually deliver that promise.
He just didn’t say when this time around:
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go.
LeBron has obviously matured from the man who made a “Decision” on national television to “take (his) talents to South Beach.” He has embraced the role of a father and a husband, and that role will become even more prominent in his life as his wife, Savannah Brinson, is expecting a girl. Sometimes we need to make a mistake that leaves others ridiculing us in order to grow up and learn what not to do in certain situations. I truly believe this is what LeBron went through during his four years in Miami.
The most soothing anecdote from LeBron came in the first paragraph of his “Letter,” so I’ll leave you all with this and hope that you can find the same mature LeBron James that I found on Friday in his announcement:
My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.