Ever since the NBA Finals (and even before) there has been speculation as to whether LeBron James will opt out of the final year of his contract or stay a member of the Miami Heat for the 2014-15 NBA season.
We can now at least answer one of those questions to rest. LeBron James has announced he will opt out of his final contract year with the Miami Heat and become a free-agent.
LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul has told Heat LeBron will exercise early termination option
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) June 24, 2014
Now the speculation will be where LeBron will sign, and while some may doubt it, there’s a good chance that his opting out is more of a power move by James to put some pressure on the Heat ownership.
As a free agent, LeBron can put pressure on Heat ownership to commit to spending more to build roster. Opting in, he couldn’t do it as well.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) June 24, 2014
James was due to be paid $20.59 million for the season which would have been his fifth with the team had he chosen to opt in and remain with the Heat.
Personally, after his team failed him during the NBA Finals where they were soundly beaten in five games by the San Antonio Spurs, you can’t blame James for wanting to get out of South Beach. Of course, he could stay with Miami Whatever happens, there’s going to be a lot of talk about ‘The Decision II’ and where James will end up.
The 2014 NBA Finals are over, and the San Antonio Spurs are your champions, defeating LeBron James and the Miami Heat in five relatively easy games. The Spurs were as impressive a team in those Finals as I can remember, with their flawless ball movement on offense, and intensity on defense. The Heat simply looked outmatched from start to finish, despite having the best player on the planet. Now, we recap: What did we learn?
Here are five things I took away from the 2014 NBA Finals:
5. Welcome to the big stage, Kawhi Leonard, take a seat and stay a while: In a series of superstars on top of superstars, featuring the best player in the world (LeBron), and maybe the greatest player of his generation (Duncan, more on this in a moment), the star that shined brightest was 22 year-old Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, who is undoubtedly quiet off the court, let his play speak for itself, averaging 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks in the series, while shooting 61.2 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from behind the 3-point line. The shooting percentage above all else was especially impressive, as he went toe-to-toe with LeBron statistically, while defending him exceptionally well on the defensive end.
For Leonard, the next step now will be having to perform with the expectations that he should now make the leap to becoming one of this league’s stars. We saw Paul George struggle with this exact expectation this season after similarly going toe-to-toe with LeBron in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals. Whether he can use this Finals MVP performance to catapult him to the next level consistently remains to be seen, but its undeniable the young man has arrived to the big stage.
4. It’s been real, D-Wade: While Leonard was the player whose career benefited most from the 2014 Finals, Heat star Dwyane Wade is on the other side of the spotlight. Wade, a future Hall of Fame inductee, looked like a player who has seen his best days pass. To be frank, Wade was awful, especially when you consider how much he was rested throughout the season, and the minimum amount of effort he needed to exert in the playoffs prior to the Finals.
Wade didn’t break a sweat against the Charlotte Bobcats, and barely was needed for the Heat to get past both the Brooklyn Nets and the Indiana Pacers, which was quite unexpected as the Pacers were supposed to be the Heat’s kryptonite. All in all, Wade really had no excuse not to be ready to play at a high level.
In related news, Wade can opt in to a 2-year, $40 million deal. Amar’e Stoudemire may have some competition in the NBA Stealing Money Club…
3. At least Miami has beaches, LeBron: LeBron James must have been feeling a far too familiar feeling while he and his team were embarrassed against the Spurs. With the aforementioned struggling of D-Wade, and a group of players who are either retiring, or should be considering it, the Miami Heat resembled the 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers far too much for anybody’s comfort level, especially LeBron.
That comparison isn’t exactly fair, as Chris Bosh himself is better than any teammate James had in Cleveland, and while the Cavs had overachievers, the Heat purposely employed veterans they thought would perform well come playoff time. Evidence shows that was pretty far from the truth, as the Miami supporting cast didn’t look like players worthy of gracing a Finals floor.
Ultimately, I don’t see LeBron leaving Miami, but that could end up being a mistake with Wade eating up a ton of salary, not allowing the Heat to properly retool this team like they need to in order to compete.
2. Tim Duncan, VIP member: If you are talking big picture, nobody’s legacy was furthered from the Finals more than coach Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. However, I would argue Duncan is the ultimate beneficiary, strictly because Popovich is already revered as one of the all-time greats, and would have been, win or lose.
Players are put under a more strict microscope, especially when it comes to wins and losses, and more importantly, championships. Duncan’s fifth ring puts him in elite company, and this championship may be as impressive as any of the other four. Duncan now HAS to be mentioned as one of the top-10 players ever, and instead of his career ending with a heart-breaking defeat, it is now enhanced by a story-book worthy redemption story.
Whether we like it or not, perception still means something, and Duncan’s perception will now always be of a winner, with Ray Allen’s game six corner three seen as a mere bump in the road of success.
1. Teamwork STILL makes the dream work: While the above four points have been focused on individuals, the one thing we learned more than anything else is that basketball is still a TEAM game. In the era of Big -insert number here- and super-teams, the championship was won with beautiful ball movement, and players trusting each other. If you listed the top 10 players in this series, LeBron may be the only Heat player that makes the list (you can argue Bosh would too). In the end, it wasn’t only Duncan and Leonard, or even Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but players like Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, and Patty Mills that won this championship for the Spurs.
In truth, it wasn’t any of them that won it, but it was all of them. The Spurs played at an impeccable level as a team, and I truly believe that the Heat were just the unfortunate opponent of a team on a mission. In my opinion, the Spurs would have embarrassed any other team in the league on that Finals stage playing at that level, opponent insignificant.
The idealist in me would like to believe this may change the way teams are formed, and the way teams play forever. Maybe emphasis will be put on trying to duplicate the Spurs success, and individual accomplishments will be put on the back-burner in favor of a group of individuals forming one unit, and focusing on whatever gives them the best opportunity to win.
The realist in me knows that what I just witnessed in those Finals may be something I never see again.
Frank Santos- Sports-Kings Co-Founder
Just a few days after putting on a dunking exhibition in practice, LeBron James said he would win the All-Star slam dunk contest. This came after someone asked LeBron’s teammate Dwyane Wade how he would fair in the competition, and LBJ chimed in and answered for him.
Whether or not this was said in a joking context, we don’t know. But after the show he put on at practice, it seems like James loves the attention he gets for not participating in the dunk contest. One thing is almost for sure, however, and that is James is right. He would probably win.
Someone asked Wade today how LeBron would do in the dunk contest. LeBron cut in and answered for Wade: “I’d win.”
— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) February 10, 2014
After practice Monday, LeBron James further showed why EVERYONE wants him in the NBA All-Star dunk contest. The likes of Paul George and Damian Lillard are competing in it this year, but after watching how easy LBJ makes this look, I have to think he would definitely win it if he were to enter. Check out the dunking exhibition he put on below!
There is little doubt that the USA is host to some of the top athletes on the planet. Players from all over the world flock to the NBA, NFL, and MLB to test their mettle against the likes of Lebron James, Adrian Peterson, and Miguel Cabrera, thus making these leagues the grand stage of sports today. Though everyone on an NBA, NFL, and MLB roster is physically gifted in ways we can’t even imagine, there are a select few from these prestigious ranks who’s athleticism makes even their peers look like mere mortals. We currently don’t have a Bo Jackson or a Deion Sanders among us, but there are quite a number of athletes that could fit the bill if they decided to pursue a professional career in multiple sports. Here is a list of those guys.
Adrian Peterson: Running back, Minnesota Vikings
Though Peterson is in my mind the best athlete in the world and would have been a success no matter what he decided to play, he has stuck with football and playing the running back position throughout his college and professional career. Ultimately I think he made the right choice punishing defenders between the tackles full-time, but his commitment to excellence at the running back position cost him a spot on this list.
5. Steve Nash: Point guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Steve Nash may be pushing 40, but the man can still ball. Not just on an NBA court either, as he has showcased a real talent in the game of soccer as well. Just this past summer he had a ‘tryout’ with Inter Milan, an Italian soccer team that is known as a real powerhouse back in Italy. His younger brother Martin Nash was also a regular participant in the Canadian National Soccer Team, and the elder Nash can reportedly keep up with Martin on the soccer field. It’s probably too late for Steve to carve out a career in soccer, but the fact that he can still hang with the pros in practices is still an impressive feat.
4. Patrick Peterson: Cornerback, Arizona Cardinals
Cornerback. Punt returner. Wide receiver. Wildcat quarterback. Running back. Is there anything that Patrick Peterson can’t do on the football field? The answer to that question is cover Michael Crabtree, but other than that Peterson is an all-around dominant force. Any time he steps onto the field you have to worry about everything he can do, from blitzing your quarter to shutting down your top receiver not named Michael Crabtree to taking back a punt return to catching a 50 yard bomb on offense.
He is heavily involved in all three facets of his football team, which is a rare feat in today’s NFL. Include that with the fact that Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim said he is the closest thing sports has to a Bo Jackson or a Deion Sanders, and you have to believe that Peterson would succeed in any sport he set his mind to. As long as Michael Crabtree didn’t decide to join him, of course.
3. Carl Crawford: Outfield, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Perfect Storm may also be the perfect athlete. Not only was he heavily recruited by UCLA to be their point guard coming out of high school, he was also recruited by football powerhouses such as USC, Nebraska, Florida, and Tulsa as an option quarterback. He even went as far as to sign a letter of intent to play football for Nebraska, though he ultimately decided that a career in baseball was his best choice. It’s hard to argue with the results of his choice, but I still would have loved to see Crawford in the shotgun or throwing up an alley-oop.
2. Colin Kaepernick: Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
Somebody pick up the phone, because I called it. When the 49ers drafted Colin Kaepernick I said he was going to take them to a Super Bowl, and he did not disappoint. From putting the 49ers (and carrying various Packers defenders) on his back by breaking an NFL quarterback rushing record to beat the Packers in the playoffs to spanking Tom Brady and the Pats in front of the world in week 14, Kaepernick became a true NFL superstar on his way to leading the San Francisco 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance in almost 20 years.
Coming out of high school, however, the sport he was heavily recruited in as baseball. Him and his 170 pound frame was mostly scoffed at when he said he was committed to football, and he ended up turning down multiple baseball scholarships at prestigious NCAA schools to accept his lone football scholarship at Nevada. It seems he made the right call, though his 87-mile bullet of a first pitch at a Giants game in June leaves me wondering just how good he would have been if he stuck it out with baseball.
1. Lebron James: Small forward, Miami Heat
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Lebron James is the most polarizing athlete in sports today. His impact on the game of basketball has drawn comparisons to Michael Jordan, and he is known as one of the most physically gifted players of all time. His talents aren’t just on the court though, as he was just as dominant on a football field in high school and was routinely linked to the Cleveland Browns back in his Cavalier days.
Videos of him catching passes and throwing footballs leave us saying “what if” every time he decides to tease us with one, and though I doubt we will ever truly see him on an NFL field it would be a sight to behold. King James, if you’re reading this, the world of sports is begging you to follow in the footsteps of Deion and Bo and show us what you’re made of on an NFL field.
Dwyane Wade’s divorce from ex-wife and high school sweetheart, Siohvaughn Funches, has been anything but smooth. Funches recently posed on the curb with a sign, claiming poverty because of Wade. But, the biggest cost in the whole fiasco may land in the laps of Wade’s lawyers.
Wade’s ex will be collecting $5 million from the superstar, and 3-time NBA champ, who raked in a modest $17.2 million from his NBA salary alone, last season. Wade also banks from various endorsement deals, so the guy is pretty financially set. But, that won’t change the fact that he might end up paying more than $10 million to his lawyers! Hold up, $10 million? This is the moment when we all realize that we’re in the wrong business.
“We were at about $8 million last year,” said one lawyer who asked not to be named. “He’s paying more for lawyers than what he is paying his wife for the settlement.”
Yikes. The fact that Wade is paying lawyers upwards of $10 million, just to pay his his ex-wife an additional $5 million is insane. That means that Wade is losing essentially his entire salary from last season in one swift move. And we wonder why former athletes go broke with such ease.
Sure, Wade will earn close to another $40 million over the next two seasons from just his deal with the Miami Heat, but losing $15 million in a court battle surely puts a big damper on things for the star shooting guard.