It finally happened — LeBron James opted out of his Miami Heat contract and is officially a free agent. With rumors undoubtedly flowing in all directions, sports fans prepare for LeBron Watch 2.0. Will he go to the Chicago Bulls, join Carmelo Anthony somewhere, return to the Heat or maybe even head home to the Cleveland Cavaliers?
If by some chance James does choose to return to the city he spurned four years ago, it could be the type of decision that radically alters the public’s perception of him. Beloved during his time in his hometown, James became public enemy No. 1 when he left for Miami. The main reason people loathe James resides around him leaving Cleveland and the way in which he handled the situation, so what excuses will his haters have if he returns?
The most interesting aspect of James’ second chance with free agency will revolve around how much public perception will come into play with regards to his decision. While winning has always been the top priority to James, one would assume that the type of hate that is spewed in his direction could easily be influential when making such a decision. For now, it seems as though roster talent is driving his decisions:
LeBron James will opt-out of deal, source confirms. He’s determined to impose pressure on Miami to improve roster and spend, sources say.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 24, 2014
For Cleveland (and the rest of the NBA), the question before Thursday’s draft has become “how can we improve our team in order to land LeBron?” Would James even consider talking with teams before the draft? After all, the acquisition of James to any roster will drastically change draft preparations.
In Cleveland, fans will be approaching this topic with tepid anticipation, unwilling to have their hearts broken yet again. However, for James, the opportunity to return to Cleveland and rectify his ugly departure in 2010 has to be appealing. For a player who has gone through drastic changes in public perception over the past five years, such stability could be enticing.
Regardless of how it plays out, fans can be assured that summer of 2014 will be very reminiscent of 2010 — grab your popcorn.