As the best player in the NBA right now, the waiting list for LeBron James runs roughly 29 teams deep. With the news that James would be opting out of the last year of his contract — eschewing more than $20 million in the process — everyone following the NBA let their imaginations run rampant, similar to the way you think about winning the lottery.
That is to say, however unlikely, every team and every fan base has at least thought about what it’d be like to have James playing for them. Even the self-professed “old school” fans who think free agency is an abomination, who think LeBron is a quitter, and who think everything was better back in their day. Pay no attention to their Abe Simpson impersonations, because beneath their fronting, they want to win, and there’s no roster slot better spent when it comes to winning than the play of LeBron.
It’s also mostly harmless, because we’re almost certain that James is ultimately going to re-sign with Miami. Since forming the Big Three back in summer 2010, the Heat have made it to every NBA Finals and broken even on NBA championships. That’s not a bad run, and LeBron’s legacy is secured, which is more than he could say when he played for certain other teams in certain other cities. But with the 2014 Heatles playing worse than any other James-led team in the Finals, it’s never been more likely that he might pine, again, for greener pastures, and take his talents out of South Beach just as abruptly as he brought them in.
Pat Riley is at least tangentially aware of this — even if he’s in less immediate danger of losing his star than inter-conference rival Phil Jackson — and pulled out the masculinity shaming during a press conference earlier this month, saying: “You gotta stay together, if you’ve got the guts. You don’t find the first door and run out of it.” That hardly sounds like the confident speech of a wise GM who knows his stars are going to come back into the fold. So let’s examine Miami first, and then we’ll look at other spots that might sport LeBron James jerseys in 2015.