Mounting evidence suggests that LeBron James may be on the verge of returning to Cleveland and signing with the Cavaliers — a move that would be one of the biggest free agent signings in the history of sports, eclipsing even James’ own move from Cleveland to Miami four years ago.
James has yet to make an announcement. Multiple reports Thursday suggested the Cavs were the frontrunners, although, as SB Nation points out, odds of The King returning home plummeted Thursday evening when predictions of an afternoon announcement didn’t come to fruition.
Here’s what you need to know about James’ potential return to his home state:
1. Chris Sheridan Tweeted That James Is Going to Cleveland ‘100 Percent’
LeBron-to-Cavs news will eventually post on http://t.co/UWcnreYIe0. Nat'l media being fed misinformation. I stand by my source & story 100%.
— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) July 10, 2014
The Decision has been made.”
Chris Sheridan, a longtime NBA reporter who runs the website sheridanhoops.com, reported Thursday that James is going to Cleveland “100 percent.”
The site says:
“James met with Miami Heat president Pat Riley today in Las Vegas to deliver the news. A contingent of other Heat officials were informed they were not welcome at the meeting, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.”
2. A Developer Said the Shell of a New Page on James’ Site Features Cavaliers’ Colors
— Matt Borcas (@mattborcas) July 10, 2014
According to a web designer close to the designer doing James’ site, the code is prepared to be updated with navy, maroon and gold coloring.
However, this color-coded “proof” isn’t conclusive to all:
Gone back and forth with designers this AM, all struggling to find supposed embedded code that reveals LeBron's team choice on website.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) July 10, 2014
— Ben Thompson (@monkbent) July 10, 2014
— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 10, 2014
The color-coding on LeBronJames.com isn’t the only hint that the King is gearing up for a homecoming. The site’s homepage was recently updated to include the phrase “Just a Kid from Akron, Ohio,” and James’ wife posted an Instragram photo last month with the following caption:
Home sweet home!! The countdown is real! #330″
3. The Cavs Cleared the Cap Space They Needed to Make Room for James
The Cavs have cleared the salary cap space needed to offer James a max contract worth $20.7 million per year.
In order to make this possible, the Cavs gave away Sergei Karasev, Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller and their first-round pick in the 2016 draft in a trade with the Nets and Celtics.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted Thursday afternoon that the Cavs pressed Celtics and Nets officials to complete paperwork on the teams’ three-way trade “immediately” to clear up cap space:
Cavs pressed Celtics/Nets officials to complete paperwork on 3-way trade in last hour, needed it done "immediately." Cap space is clear now.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 10, 2014
James and Paul were meeting with Heat president Pat Riley Wednesday, ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported.
The direction of the Heat franchise will be drastically altered by James’ decision, both because of James’ own value and the implications the move will have on Bosh.
Source: After meeting with Pat Riley today, LeBron James & Rich Paul will not meet with any more teams. LJ will talk w/family & make choice.
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 10, 2014
4. The Cavs Are on Their Way Up and the Heat Are on Their Way Down
James led Cleveland to its only NBA Finals appearance in 2007, when the Cavs were swept by Tim Duncan and the Spurs. And although the Cavs have been awful since James left, the ingredients are there for them to quickly get back into contention.
Cleveland already has a rising star in Kyrie Irving and has another superstar-in-the-making in Andrew Wiggins, who they took with the top pick in last month’s draft.
With Irving and Wiggins set to move into their primes as James gets older, the team could be set up for a run similar to that accomplished in San Antonio, where Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker were coming into their primes just as Tim Duncan’s skills were starting to decline.
James opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat last month with two years and about $43 million left on the contract he signed in the 2010-11 offseason.
James, who famously predicted the Heat would win “not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4 …” titles in Miami, had a partially successful tenure with the Heat. He, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh led the team to four straight NBA Finals appearances, winning the middle two while losing the first and last.
The Heat were embarrassed in this year’s Finals, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in five games in a rematch of the 2013 series in which the Heat won in seven. If the Heat had won the series, Lebron’s decision would be a different story.
I refresh http://t.co/tVzgkXsA8n every other minute
— Andrew Portnoy (@andrewporty) July 10, 2014
5. Ohio Cops Had Increased Security Ahead of a Thursday Afternoon Announcement That Didn’t Happen
Bath police to increase patrols around LBJ's home after 3 p. when annoucement is expected "tonight." #KingJames
— PHIL TREXLER-ABJ (@PhilTrexler) July 10, 2014
Folks in Bath feel strongly that LBJ will sign w/ CLE. LBJ's camp contacted cops hour ago to alert them of tonight's annoucement. #kingjames
— PHIL TREXLER-ABJ (@PhilTrexler) July 10, 2014
Akron Beacon-Journal reporter Phil Trexler reported that he was tipped off that the police in Akron and Cleveland would be increasing security at 3 p.m., signaling that a decision would be made. But the afternoon came and went without any news.
James, meanwhile, spent the afternoon at his basketball camp in Las Vegas, where he was joined by Heat teammate Dwyane Wade.
— Victor Oquendo (@VictorOquendo) July 10, 2014