James’ decision really was quite revolutionary because the NBA’s collective bargaining rules are designed to encourage players to remain with their current teams. James can sign with the Cavaliers for $30 million more than he can make with any other team.
Those rules are why there has been little movement among superstars on the free-agent market over the years. Star players usually only changed teams via trades because few were willing to leave millions on the table in exchange for their freedom.
James’ decision also radically changed the way teams approached building their rosters. Instead of acquiring assets to try and swing a trade for a star, teams began focusing on shedding assets to get under the cap this summer for a shot at either James, Wade, Bosh or other free agents.
So in most of the cities involved in the LeBron sweepstakes, anticipation of this moment has been building for at least a couple of years.
But perhaps the biggest reason LeBron mania is off the charts is because it’s unprecedented for a superstar to hit the open market at 25. James is just entering his prime, and he wants to make sure he doesn’t spend his prime on a team with little hope of winning.
The money, as noted, may not be the most important thing for LeBron. No matter who he signs with, he’ll have enough money — unless he fritters it away, always possible — for several generations of his family.
But he won’t be remembered in the same breath as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant unless he wins championships. And it would appear his best shot at that is with the Bulls. We await developments.