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Now Married, LeBron's Career Enters Contract Year

Miami Heat's King Going to Be Courted All Season Long

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Now Married, LeBron's Career Enters Contract Year
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Lebron James

COMMENTARY | So now that LeBron James has tied the knot, ventured off to Italy on his honeymoon and made his long-awaited courtship with his longtime sweetheart official on paper, it is time to think about basketball again.

With training camp opening Oct. 1, the Miami Heat's prize possession returns for his fourth season in South Beach with huge expectations, a new ring on his finger and decisions beyond what kind of bedroom decor is the selection of the month. We're talking basketball decisions that extend beyond whether or not to dish off to Ray Allen in the corner.

LeBron has become an icon in the NBA. But his image isn't defined by his commercials while talking to Drake and listening to his music during dunk sessions in a Miami high-rise. No, his image is defined by the noise he creates in American Airlines Arena. James is a businessman in every sense of the word. He is business-like in the marketing side of his persona on and off the court. He is all business in his quest for basketball supremacy.

This year, everyone will be in his business, especially since he has a decision to make at the end of the season. Even if James doesn't opt out of his contract to go elsewhere at the end of this season - and it sure seems like he simply loves the idea that he's keeping everyone guessing again - he could command a more handsome contract to remain with the Heat. Something suggests a now married man who has been ordained by the NBA as king of its court will accept nothing but royalty come next summer.

James is coming off a season in which he averaged career bests in field goal percentage (56.5), three-point shooting percentage (40.6), assists (7.3) and rebounds (8.0) during a year when his game, icon and image flourished to the next level in this three-year repair effort. Everything the King touched turned to gold in June the last two years. There aren't too many people enjoying better lives these days than LeBron.

Business Insider considers him the most dominant athlete on earth, documenting his income streams in droves from sources connected to his business-savvy ventures. Samsung, McDonald's, Nike - they're all big players in the King's court. Basketball is what attracted companies to LeBron's endorsement entourage. His business intellect and business manager, Maverick Carter, and his seven-employee LRMR marketing firm based out of Cleveland are what crafted his king's royal off-the-court courtship since 2006.

His image is repaired in many ways. His game is at its best. He is in a "contract" year. And the Heat, despite the indifference of NBA critics, are still a favorite to win the title again. TNT analyst and erstwhile three-year Phoenix Suns General Manager Steve Kerr picked the Bulls to dethrone the Heat. Whether he's way off base or spot on, LBJ is going to have something to say about it. And if he does, you can bet Heat owner Micky Arison, the wealthiest Floridian, will pay him generously. As will others.

By the way, there are plenty of Nike LeBron shoes on the market. Just in case anyone is having any feet fetishes.

Jim McCurdy is a freelance sports writer based in Miami. He has written for major publications around the country. Follow him on Twitter at @irishcurds.

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