LeBron tells Heat he will become free agent
by Tim Reynolds, AP Basketball Writer
June 24, 2014 02:00 PM | 842 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this June 17, 2014 file photo, Miami Heat's LeBron James gestures as he answers a question during a news conference in Miami. A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the four-time NBA MVP nor the team had made any public announcement. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
In this June 17, 2014 file photo, Miami Heat's LeBron James gestures as he answers a question during a news conference in Miami. A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the four-time NBA MVP nor the team had made any public announcement. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
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In this June 21, 2013 file photo, the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, left, holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy as LeBron James holds his Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after Game 7 of the NBA basketball championship against the San Antonio Spurs, in Miami. The Heat's Chris Bosh celebrates in the background. A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the four-time NBA MVP nor the team had made any public announcement.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
In this June 21, 2013 file photo, the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, left, holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy as LeBron James holds his Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after Game 7 of the NBA basketball championship against the San Antonio Spurs, in Miami. The Heat's Chris Bosh celebrates in the background. A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the four-time NBA MVP nor the team had made any public announcement.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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In this April 23, 2014 file photo, Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) high-fives Chris Bosh (1) after the Heat defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 101-97 in Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Miami. At left is Dwyane Wade. A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the four-time NBA MVP nor the team had made any public announcement. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
In this April 23, 2014 file photo, Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) high-fives Chris Bosh (1) after the Heat defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 101-97 in Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Miami. At left is Dwyane Wade. A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that James has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat and become a free agent on July 1. Opting out does not mean James has decided to leave the Heat, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the four-time NBA MVP nor the team had made any public announcement. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
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MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James is heading back to free agency.

James has told the Miami Heat that he is opting out of the final two years of his contract, his agent, Rich Paul, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. And with that, James will become a free agent on July 1.

"I have informed the Heat," Paul said.

That does not mean James is leaving Miami - but there's no guarantee that he'll be in a Heat uniform next season, either. A person briefed on the matter and familiar with James' thinking told AP that he has not decided where he will play next season.

"There's no other decision yet," that person said.

James addressed the lure of having flexibility last week in his exit interview after the Heat lost to San Antonio in the NBA Finals. And he will have plenty of it now.

Among his options: He could leave Miami entirely, join another team if he feels that better positions himself to win more championships, or sign a longer-term deal in Miami and afford the Heat some financial flexibility of their own in relation to the salary cap and luxury tax.

"Being able to have flexibility as a professional, anyone, that's what we all would like," James said last week. "That's in any sport, for a football player, a baseball player, a basketball player, to have flexibility and be able to control your future or your present. I have a position to be able to do that. ... There's a lot of times that you're not in control of your future as a professional."

The other two Miami stars with early termination options — Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — have not yet told the Heat or publicly revealed whether they will join James as free agents this summer. Bosh and James both said last week that the three would meet before deciding anything about their respective futures, and it's been widely speculated that they might have to rework their deals to keep the "Big 3" together in Miami.

The Heat were not caught offguard or surprised by James' move.

"Players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options," Heat President Pat Riley said. "The last four seasons have been historic and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra have led the Miami Heat to one of the most unprecedented runs in the history of the NBA. We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together."

James, Wade and Bosh each signed six-year deals when they famously teamed up in Miami in 2010, and all of those deals came with options to become free agents either this summer or in the summer of 2015. Together, they've won four Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships, winning more games than any other team in the league over that span.

"There's a conversation that will be had between the three of us," James said last week. "I think it's only right. I think we've earned that for each other, to have a conversation and see what could possibly happen."

James had about $42.7 million remaining on his deal with the Heat. He came to Miami in 2010 after spending his first seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the free agent dealings that summer, James said, was the "craziest summer I've ever been a part of."

This one might have a similar feel. James' wife posted a photo depicting Akron, Ohio - their hometown - to her Instagram account Sunday night, and that set off a social-media frenzy, even though it was only related to her annual trip home for the summer.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this story.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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