LeBron announces his intention to return to Cavs next season
By JOE VARDON
Not that it should come as a surprise, but LeBron James fully intends to return to the Cavaliers to defend the NBA championship they just won next season.
“I love it here. I love being here. I love my teammates,” James told cleveland.com, moments before he boarded a float at The Q for the Cavs’ championship parade through downtown Cleveland. “Obviously my agent will take care of all the logistical things but, I’m happy. I’ve got no plans to go nowhere at this point.”
James, 31, can become a free agent if he decides not to exercise the one-year, $24 million player’s option in his contract. He will all but certainly decline the option on June 29 so he can get a raise from the Cavs — he can make upwards of $30 million next season under a new contract.
Free agents can begin negotiating with teams July 1 and can sign July 7.
But James fully intends to lead the defense of the first championship in franchise history, and the first by a major pro sports team in Cleveland since 1964. He’s been blown away emotionally by the outpouring of support from Cavs fans over the past few days, and, lest ye forget, he was born in Akron and just delivered a title to the region where he’s lived for 27 of his 31 years.
“This is the happiest time in my life right now,” James said.
Once he reached the stage and rally, James spent nearly 20 minutes thanking each of his teammates during a sometimes profane speech. He gave his fans even more reason to celebrate when he told reporters he intends to stay in Cleveland and go for another title next season. James is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent soon to take advantage of a new TV deal that will push maximum NBA salaries higher.
“I’m nothing without this city. I’m nothing without you all,” he said. “Let’s get ready for next year.”
“It still hasn’t hit me that this has happened,” said James, who delivered on his promise to bring a championship to his home state with a magnificent playoff performance.
“It’s so surreal. For some crazy reason, I feel like I’m gonna wake up and it’s going to be Game 4 again.”
Moments later, James cradled the shiny, golden trophy in his arms like a newborn. This was his baby — and Cleveland’s.