The four-time NBA MVP LeBron James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Miami Heat. He will therefore become a free agent on 1 July.
Citing “a person familiar with the situation”, the Associated Press said the decision did not necessarily mean James would leave the Heat, the 2012 and 2013 NBA champions who this year were beaten in the NBA Finals in five games, by the San Antonio Spurs.
“There’s no other decision yet,” the source said.
ESPN reported that James’s agent, Richie Paul, had told the Heat the player would exercise an early termination option on his contract, to opt out of its final two years. It said he had been due to earn $20m next season; the AP put the figure left on James’ contract at $42.7m.
In response, the Heat’s president, Pat Riley, said: “Players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options.”
“We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together.”
James, 29, joined the Heat from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, in a much-hyped move which became known as “The Decision”. He spent seven seasons in Cleveland; in his four seasons in Miami the franchise have gone to the finals four times, winning twice. A 10-time All-Star selection, James has twice been named NBA Finals MVP.
He has also played at three Olympic Games, winning gold at London 2012 and Beijing 2008 and bronze in Athens in 2004.
In a 17 June press conference after the Heat’s 107-84 defeat by San Antonio in this year’s Game 5, James told reporters he would go on holiday before making any decision about his future.