Free will would have it that, no matter the outcome of these 2014 NBA Finals, LeBron James is free to opt out of his contract to become a free agent this summer if he so decides. But, as most LeBron storylines go, it isn’t exactly just up to him.
A caveat: yes, the finals have yet to be decided, but his decision should be the same no matter which way the narrative blows. Even in the event of the worst case scenario, an utter beatdown in San Antonio in Game 5, it isn’t as if the Miami Heat experiment has been a failure. Four straight trips to the main stage, a 27-game winning streak, utter domination out east, two championships (with a third, out of reach, but still undecided), are nothing to hang their heads about.
Some say the dynasty is over, but in fact, it could end up somewhat resembling what the Spurs have pieced together over the decades. Never in San Antonio’s dynasty have they been able to repeat on the grand stage. By no stretch of the word would they be considered failures.
LeBron has been able to convert many of his past critics into followers. At this stage, even in embarrassing blowouts, his game remains almost devoid of criticism. But quitting on the Miami Heat now—after they’ve built around him, at a time of possible inner turmoil, when they still have the pieces to improve with—would solidify a status of taking the easy way out and turning his back on teams.
Throughout these finals, LeBron has looked disgusted at his team’s play and for good reason: Mario Chalmers has scored only 14 points in the entire series, James scored 90.5 percent of the Heat’s points in Game 4’s third quarter, by the end of the same third quarter the non-LeBron Heat players were shooting 27.7 percent, etc.
But darting for greener pastures doesn’t help his image and it might not work to his advantage from a basketball standpoint. Remember: teams are successful because of their team culture as much as they are because of the talent of their personnel. James, Wade, and Bosh in Sacramento Kings jerseys wouldn’t be where they are now.
If James takes his talents to another franchise, he’ll be susceptible to the same things he was when freshly becoming a Heat player. Namely, having to get acquainted to new team dynamics, building up team chemistry from the ground up, opening yourself up to disappointment from a front office, free agency standpoint. In Miami, LeBron would have full control to architect his redemption. And it’s why, no matter the outcome, why he must stay in Miami.