The four-time NBA MVP signed a two-year, $42.1 million contract Saturday night that includes a player option for the 2015-16 season, according to The Associated Press.
There is no reason to believe James chose the short-term scenario in order to leave Cleveland for another team. In his first-person essay written for Sports Illustrated, the Akron native said, “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there.”
Cavaliers general manager David Griffin echoed that sentiment in announcing James’ formal signing.
“These words and commitment put all of us, including LeBron, in the best position to build our franchise the right way and achieve the kind of goals we all know are possible,” Griffin said.
“The contract and those details are secondary to his commitment to Northeast Ohio and the Cavaliers. We can’t wait to get started and look forward to his leadership, on and off the court, for many years to come.”a
James is guaranteed to earn $20.7 million in his homecoming season with Cleveland, but included the ability to opt-out to give the franchise some roster flexibility over the next two summers.
The specific order that trades and free agent signings are processed in the NBA can allow teams to artificially create salary cap room, which will be critical as the Cavs add complementary talent in their pursuit of a championship.
James also has set himself up to make considerably more cash in his next pact, as is fitting for the best basketball player on the planet.
The salary cap — and the value of maximum-level player contracts — will dramatically increase in July 2016, when the league’s new television deals begin.
Incumbents TNT and ESPN/ABC are currently negotiating extensions, while News Corp. is expected to purchase a Saturday package to air on Fox Sports 1. Sports Business Journal estimates that the NBA could double its TV income because of its popularity in the coveted 18-49 age group.
Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving — a two-time All-Star — also incorporated a player option in the five-year, $90 million contract extension that he signed Thursday.
According to Yahoo, Irving has the ability to cancel the final season of his deal in 2019-20, at which point he will have just turned 27 and James will be 34.
The Cavs also control the rights to No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins through 2018-19, giving them at least five years of a new “Big Three” that will call Quicken Loans Arena home.