At $130 million, a would-be max contract extension for the Miami Heat to re-sign LeBron James is bargain bin cheap. Despite oodles of god-given talent, mountains of riches, and infinite fame, LeBron James has had it unfair throughout his career, being paid well below what he’d nab if it weren’t for CBA restrictions. Economists have said he should be bringing in $40 million per year. That’s a far different number than the $19 million he was paid in 2013-14. So, is it selfish for James to be seeking a max, or near-max, deal as the Miami Heat try to retool this offseason?
Depends on who you ask.
For many, James absolutely deserves the $30 million per year he’s said to be looking for in the Sunshine State. Thing is, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Udonis Haslem have opted out of their contracts, leaving money on the table, in hopes of keeping LeBron. To do so, and to retool around their shrunken unit (which includes Shabazz), they’ll all likely have to accept major paycuts. The Big Three, in that sense, would turn into the Big Sacrifice, as everyone but James tightens their belt for the team to remain relevant.
The new money dynamic seems justified because the NBA Finals ultimately proved that James is the nucleus of this team. So the salaries should show that accordingly. If Lance Stephenson is expecting to cash out, so should the one-and-only King.
But max deals don’t operate in a vacuum. If the Miami Heat decide to dole out riches to keep LeBron, it will affect their ability to build around him to his heart’s desire, which ultimately is what this is all about: satisfying James enough for him to stay. In a matter of fairness, James would require his own salary cap. But if life, and the NBA no less, was fair, we’d all be contending with LeBron James-sized matters of free agency.
Essentially, it’s the league’s coaches who are putting James in a corner, as new CBA rules make it so max players are forced to take non-max money to ensure their teams remain competitive. But people forget that said rules were instated to stop the very thing LeBron started: the collusion of star players in forming mega teams. If James is now in a corner, it’s partly because of his own doing.
To max or not to max?
Really, there’s no wrong answer for James. In one, he gets paid his “fair” due–though, he’s worth much more–and, in the other, he ensures that Wade, Bosh, and Haslem get paid adequately enough while maintaining enough cap space to keep the Heat contenders. Duncan, who just stole another chip from ‘Bron, has done it more than once. James, then, must decide if he wants a legacy of ample checks or one of ample winnings.