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Is LeBron James Leaving The Miami Heat?

LeBron James, smiling during an interview with Business Insider.

Business Insider.

It's official: LeBron James has decided to opt out of his deal with the Miami Heat, making arguably the best basketball player in the world a free agent for the second time in his career. The news was originally broken by ESPN's Chris Broussard.

">June 24, 2014

This isn't too surprising, as this allows King James to survey his options before deciding whether or not he will return to South Beach. This raises the big question: after the Heat got wrecked in the NBA Finals by the San Antonio Spurs, will LeBron leave Miami for his third career team?

Unfortunately for people who like chaos and moves that could very easily sway NBA titles for the next decade, that's probably not going to happen, according to Turner Sports' Ethan J. Skolnick.

">June 24, 2014

">June 24, 2014

This is, in all likelihood, a move by LeBron that allows him to opt out of his current deal and sign a new contract with Miami for five years and $129 million, which is the maximum deal that a player can sign with his old team after free agency. It's a shrewd move that gives LeBron the chance to make more money and be in a secure spot over the next five years of his career.

Of course, now that LeBron opted out, he can see what Miami decides to do this offseason. As anyone who watched the NBA Finals would tell you, outside of LeBron, the Heat generally looked horrible. It was reminiscent of the 2007 NBA Finals when the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers got upended by the Spurs, 4-0.

In doing this, LeBron could say to Miami that it needs to get better pieces around him than Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, two players who have declined over the last few years. The team could move some pieces around, pick some guys up in free agency and draft players LeBron likes (ex: Shabazz Napier), and maybe that could convince King James to stay.

The option that appears least likely right now is LeBron leaving Miami. By leaving the Heat, LBJ can only sign a deal worth $96 million over four years, so he would essentially need to take a pay cut if he wants to leave. This may end up being the most appealing move for LeBron, as he can get a fresh start, chase rings and align himself with other superstars, like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Los Angeles, Derrick Rose in Chicago or maybe even Kyrie Irving and this year's No. 1 draft pick in Cleveland.

He could also go to a team with enough cap space to sign another free agent in this year's strong free agent class. Could you imagine LeBron and Carmelo Anthony teaming up and going to a team with a bevy of cap space, like Dallas? Those two -- plus Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban, who both would do anything for one more championship -- would make an incredibly formidable squad.

LeBron James' free agency has barely even begun, but we've all started playing the "What If?" game already. It's likely that this is going to turn into absolutely nothing, LeBron returns to Miami and he continues to make his case as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But looking at the landscape of the NBA, it's at least possible that King James will leave Miami, and shake up the NBA once again.