LeBron opts out of Cleveland deal, becomes free agent

Kevin Love

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LeBron James during Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2018 in Cleveland.

James could still return to Cleveland by signing a new contract with the Cavaliers, but he can also now negotiate a deal with any team he chooses.

National Basketball Association free agency kicks off on July 1, and all eyes will be focused on LeBron James.

Cleveland can offer James a five-year max contract worth approximately $207.4 million, while the most any other team could offer him would be a four-year deal worth around $152.3 million. While there was plenty of talk throughout the season about the prospect of James joining young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia, that talk has cooled in recent weeks. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the 76ers believe they can become the frontrunners to land James if they acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs.

As expected, LeBron James will not opt-in to his $35.6 million option with the Cavaliers, as first reported by Cleveland.com, making the greatest player in the world a free agent again. James is good friends with Rockets' point guard Chris Paul, and Houston came one victory away from eliminating the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.

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James, 33, had one year remaining on his three-year, $100 million contract with the Cavaliers.

James' decision to opt out of his contract seems to take the Houston Rockets off the table, as they would have major hurdles in signing him as a free agent while keeping their core together.

The decision by "The King" officially kicks off the hysteria about who he may play for next.

Eight years ago, James left and outraged many Cavs fans for the manner in which he departed. But Cleveland's roster is in need of an overhaul, and the Cavaliers are in the hard situation of having to convince James they will continue to improve without knowing if he will be back.

"According to a couple of owners I've spoken to and a few executives I've spoken to, Dan Gilbert is known for not being particularly fond of LeBron James", Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN on Friday, as transcribed by Yahoo! Of course, the 76ers have lagged far behind in the public conversation about the best player in the NBA's free agency.

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