COMMENTARY | It's hard to avoid the rumors and pseudo-developments regarding LeBron James' future, with every business decision and quote dissected up and down for possible clues on what the Miami Heat's all-everything power guard will do following the 2013-14 season when he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are eligible to opt out of their contracts and become free agents.
This season is the first and only of the Superfriends era that will carry with it a relative lack of scathing media attention. The first two years, despite back-to-back Finals appearances, were dominated by questions of whether this collection of stars could break through, until they finally did. Next year, regardless of whether the Heat repeat as champions or not, will be rife with rumors of the team disbanding.
James, as the headliner of the Heat's trio of stars, will undoubtedly be the focus of the what-if scenarios.
What if LeBron, with at least one title in tow, decides to return to Cleveland and team up with Kyrie Irving (who by then will be ensconced as one of the league's elite, if he isn't already)?
What if the Los Angeles Lakers, who will be in the market for an heir to the Kobe Bryant era, make a run at James? What if the New York Knicks, who haven't won a championship in 40 years and play on the world's brightest stage, dangle the limitless off-court opportunities that come with playing in the Big Apple?
Pick any franchise in a large market (or Cleveland) and you can piece together a plausible scenario in which LeBron comes aboard.
My take: Who cares?
I should clarify: Who cares right now ?
More than 16 months separate today and James' second foray into the open market. To give you an idea of how much time that is, consider what has happened in the past year alone. LeBron has gone from a polarizing, ring-less object of ridicule to a polished NBA and Olympic champion who joyously tackles fans during timeouts and plays catch during brief breaks in play. And while the actual games are going on, James is putting together perhaps his best season yet.
James recently became the first player in NBA history to score 30 points on 60-percent shooting in six consecutive games, a feat that would've reached seven against Oklahoma City had James understandably declined to shoot with a minute left in Miami's 110-100 win over the Thunder.
He's shored up past weaknesses in his game, most notably his 3-point shot. James is posting career-highs in true shooting percentage (64 percent) and 3-point shooting (41 percent), the former buoyed by the latter. His post game is a far cry from the rudimentary offering that allowed Dallas to successfully put J.J. Barea -- yes, that J.J. Barea -- on James in the 2011 Finals.
James has evolved into a human cheat code, a create-a-player prototype with all of the attributes cranked up to 99.
Which is exactly why too much attention is being devoted to where he'll play two seasons from now.
There is a decent chance we'll never see another athlete like James in this lifetime. In a sports world plagued by hyperbole and unfulfilled promise, James' abilities are impossible to overstate. He's become what everyone hoped and expected he would.
He's the odds-on favorite to win his second consecutive MVP and his fourth in the last five seasons. At the height of his powers and with a relatively weak Eastern Conference to navigate through, there's a good chance LeBron will lead the Heat to their third straight Finals appearance.
Although James seems invincible now, his play won't remain at this level forever; it can't. We'd be wise to appreciate what we're watching today instead of worrying about where he'll play many tomorrows from now.
In regards to what James will do after the 2013-2014 season, we can deduce this much: He will opt out of his current contract. By all accounts he loves playing and living in Miami, but that has nothing to do with his contract. It makes sense for James to sign a new deal, if for no other reason than to guarantee max salaries (which he sacrificed to join the Heat in the first place) well into his mid-30s.
Beyond that, it's impossible to predict James' next destination. He still has two more deep playoff runs to go through in Miami, and what happens during the rest of this season and next will likely play a large role in The Decision 2.0.
Maybe James leads the Heat to titles this year and the next and decides he's ready for a new challenge in a new city.
Maybe James leads the Heat to titles this year and the next and decides winning championships and living in paradise is good enough for him.
Maybe Earth gets hit by one of those Armageddon-inducing asteroids and the entire discussion becomes moot.
A lot can and will happen between now and July 1, 2014 (hopefully not the asteroid). Instead of fretting over every rumor about what James is possibly planning to do a year and a half from now, let's just kick our feet up and soak in what we're watching in the present. Odds are we won't see anyone -- including James' 2014-15 self -- replicate it anytime soon.
Rob Smith is the sports editor for the Venice Gondolier Sun newspaper in Venice, Fla. He has covered the NBA and the Miami Heat for the Business of Sports Network and Hot Hot Hoops since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @Smithers_Rob.
- Sports & Recreation
- LeBron James
- Miami Heat