LeBron James: Miami Heat star opts out of $20.5m contract to stay with beaten finalists
James' agent Rich Paul informed the NBA franchise of his decision
LeBron James will become a free agent on 1 July after exercising the early termination on his contract.
James' agent Rich Paul informed the Miami Heat of the star's decision to look at options elsewhere.
The 29-year-old could ultimately return on a new deal to the club who were so thoroughly beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 4-1 in the NBA Finals, but he may seek a deal on less money for a club with more chance to win.
James was set to make $20.5m (£12.08m)next season if he had stayed in Miami and a further $42.7m (£25.15m) for the two seasons after that.
James is widely regarded as the world's best basketball players and his four MVP awards make him one of only five players in NBA history to win at least four. The San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat to win the 2014 NBA Finals 4-1
He arrived on South Beach after 'The Decision' in 2010. Joining fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Big Three have reached the Finals in all four of their seasons together, winning two titles back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.
However, their thrashing at the hands of the Spurs in this year's Finals will have given James doubts about the Heat's ability to win again.
Bosh only played well in spurts, while Wade had barely any impact as long-term injury problems continued to take their toll. Both Wade and Bosh have termination options on their contracts but will likely re-sign with the Heat, knowing they will not be able to find a more lucrative contract elsewhere.
Had James opted in, Miami would have had $70.5m of their salary cap tied up in just eight players. The Heat's salary situation leaves General Manager Pat Riley with little room with which to improve a roster that is aging and in need of upheaval. The Miami Heat's roster is in need of a serious rebuild this off-season
Shane Battier has retired, Ray Allen could follow and last summer's gambles on Michael Beasley and Greg Oden failed.
James could return on a different deal giving the team more flexibility in free agency, but he will know there are better and more lucrative options available elsewhere in the NBA.
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