LeBron James finalized a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday with an eye towards maximizing his future salary once new TV contracts push NBA payroll limits higher, ESPN reported.
The US-based sports network’s website reported that James inked a two-season deal worth only $42.1 million that would give him an option to become a free agent next year.
The Cavaliers confirmed the signing Saturday but refused to give any details about the contract’s length or amount.
On Friday, James announced he would leave the Miami Heat, whom he led to two NBA crowns and four trips to the NBA Finals, and return to Cleveland, the team he spurned four years ago to join Miami in search of a first-ever championship.
Having solidified his place as the best player in the NBA, James said in an essay in Sports Illustrated that he wants to come home and accept the challenge of turning his home-region club into a champion.
No Cleveland sports team has won a major league crown since the Cleveland Browns captured the National Football League title half a century ago.
Under the plan, James would re-sign with the Cavaliers before the 2016-2017 season, when new TV deals are expected to create a huge leap in the maximum possible contract for a player.
James could avoid locking himself into what in time is expected to be a less valuable deal.
Although there is short-term risk should TV riches not come as expected, James’ skills and homecoming have created huge interest across the United States and figure to boost viewership as his undertakes his quest to make the Cavaliers a champion.
James said he is committed to play for the Cavaliers for the remainder of his NBA career, even though a short-term deal would keep other options open should his plans change or the Cavaliers revival proves more difficult that expected.
Depending on how the new television contracts are put together, the salary cap is projected to leap to as high as $80 million in 2016. There is also uncertainty with the current collective bargaining agreement starting in 2017, another reason James wanted to keep his long-term options open when it comes to the structure of his contract.
James, who is among the top NBA players in endorsement deals and non-salary income, has been paid $129 million over 11 seasons but received a maximum possible salary under NBA payroll rules in only three of those seasons.
Andre Wiggins, the top pick in last month’s NBA Draft by the Cavaliers, was excited about having James join the team in the same season he will.
“The best player in the game comes to your team, it’s a great experience,” he said. “Me, Kyrie (Irving), all of us are going to enjoy learning from him and playing on the same team.”
NBA: James signs two-year deal with Cavs: report