LeBron James Likely To Remain With Miami Heat, But For All The Wrong Reasons

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LeBron James

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Sporting News reported that LeBron James is likely to remain with the Miami Heat, despite having the ability to opt out of his current deal and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

James does not want to be chastised again like he was when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to the report. After years of rebuilding his reputation, he was able to recreate his image and doesn’t want to ruin the public perception he currently has.

It makes sense to me because I would feel the same. But if I were the best basketball player in the world, the way fans perceive me would not be the overlying determinant in my NBA future.

No matter what LeBron decides to do, there will be people who support him and people who will consider it the wrong move. But it’s LeBron’s decision to make and nobody else’s. Criticism is an inevitable result in the world of sports. It’s impossible to please everybody. Only LeBron knows what the right move is for him.

Based on everything LeBron has said and done up to this point in his career, winning is and should be his chief concern. If he believes staying with Miami, trying to rebound with the help of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade and putting his faith in Pat Riley to trot out a championship-caliber roster is the best move for his career and his goal of winning more titles, then go ahead. Stay.

But that’s a bit of a risk. Staying in Miami doesn’t mean the roster will improve next year or the year after. There’s a chance Wade comes back even healthier next year, the team upgrades its supporting case and the Heat earn a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference — and have a chance to make amends in the NBA Finals.

There’s also a chance they don’t. Wade will be another year older and another year removed from the peak of his career. Bosh could take another step in the wrong direction. And Riley could struggle to lure the best free agents to take pay cuts just to come to Miami.

The rest of the Eastern Conference could get better. Derrick Rose could revitalize the Chicago Bulls, or Phil Jackson could put together a contender in New York. The Indiana Pacers could land a top free-agent difference-maker.

The San Antonio Spurs could come back with the same championship-caliber club, while the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder find better pieces to take another step forward.

Meanwhile, LeBron stays with the Heat and a deteriorating roster. He could opt in for another season, but free agency would then loom again and he’d be face with another season of distractions and questions about his future. And if the Heat tumble again, we’ll be going through similar drama again next summer.

LeBron could sign a long-term deal and find himself stuck in a long-term debacle — a roster that moves backwards each year and is more comparable to LeBron’s old Cavaliers squads. Would his fear of public perception be worth being stranded on a perennial loser?

LeBron needs to focus on continuing to win. He’s already the top player in the world, but when it comes to legacies, it will always boil down to winning championships. There will be just as much criticism for losing, so he might as well find a team where he consistently win.

Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.