LeBron James agreed to a monstrous three-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night. James will sign it once he’s back in northeast Ohio for his annual hoops camp next week and, hard as it is to believe, this contract marks the very first time in his career that LeBron will be the highest-paid NBA player. Of course, the Cavs ownership group has every desire to keep the most dominant basketball force on the planet happy and “PAID!” and a contract stipulating that he’ll make approx. $31 million in the first year and a scooch above $33.5 million in the second season means exactly that. The third year of the contract, a player option, is where things get interesting. ‘Bron will very likely opt out of the contract and renegotiate the third year (and beyond) to maximize the contract, as he has the right to do; but by getting these first two years in before the NBA’s salary cap makes another jump in 2017, LeBron’s maximized for the short and long haul. It’s a long story, and Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon goes deep on the details here, but thanks to the byzantine structure of the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement, LeBron’s making the most money right now, next year and setting himself up for a final lucrative payout at some point before he ponders that retirement question as he approaches his late-30s come 2020 and beyond.

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