LeBron James Declining Contract Option With Cavaliers, ESPN Says

  • James had player option for $21.57 million in 2015-16 season
  • James can seek salary of about $23 million with new deal

LeBron James will decline the option on his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for next season, positioning himself for a new one-year deal at a higher salary and more flexibility for the future, ESPN reported, citing a person familiar with the situation.

James, 30, was widely expected to opt-out of the contract he signed last year in returning to Cleveland. The four-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player made $20.64 million with the Cavaliers during the 2014-15 season and had a player option for $21.57 million next season.

When James re-joined Cleveland after four seasons with the Miami Heat, he said at the time that fans shouldn’t be nervous about his short contract, calling it a “business decision.”

James doesn’t plan to meet with any other teams, ESPN said.

By declining his option, James can sign a new maximum-value, one-year contract -- with an additional one-year option -- with the Cavaliers that would pay him approximately $23 million for the 2015-16 season. James could then opt out again in the summer of 2016, getting a chance to negotiate a four-term contract when the NBA’s new $24 billion television contracts begin and the league’s salary cap swells as a result.

The NBA’s team spending limit is directly tied to league revenue, or what the NBA calls basketball-related income. The salary cap this season was a record $63 million per team and could climb to more than $90 million when the new TV deals kick in.

James at that time would be considered an early qualifying veteran free agent, having spent two years with his current team. The Cavaliers, therefore, could exceed their salary cap limit to re-sign him and offer significant pay raises in each season of the deal. With a salary cap of about $90 million, James’s first-year salary under a new contract would be about $31.5 million.

James spent his first seven seasons in Cleveland, helping the Cavaliers to the playoffs five times, before heading to Miami, where he won two titles. In his return to Cleveland, James helped the Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors without injured All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the lineup.

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