July 1st, 2010
10:48 AM ET

LeBron already knows who will pay the most

On the first full day of the rest of his basketball life, LeBron James, the NBA’s most-sought after free agent has two meetings scheduled, one with the New York Knicks, owned by Cablevision, one of the country’s biggest cable TV companies, and one with the New Jersey Nets, owned by Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov.

He’s scheduled to have more meetings in the coming days with teams with really rich owners.

Ironically enough though, the one thing these millionaires and billionaires can’t use to lure James is money.

The reason is the NBA like most major sports leagues in the US has a salary cap, and each year the league sets the amount of money that teams can spend on players for the upcoming season. This year that cap number comes out on July 8, which is why none of these free agents can officially sign a contract until then.

Of course, James and most of the others will get the maximum teams are allowed to pay, but there is another wrinkle as well. The rules are set up so that the player’s current team can spend more to keep their own player than he can make by signing with a new team.

As Ian Thomsen laid out in Sports Illustrated the most James can make if he signs with another team is about $96 million over five years, but if he re-ups with his hometown Cavaliers he could get $125.5 million over six years. The other “max” free agents are in the same situation, they make about $30 million more if they stay with their current teams. (For insider news on LeBron's meetings you can follow a twitter feed from  Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Brian Windhorst @PDcavsinsider)

So the owners have to do more than write a big check. They are trying to lure James and the other superstars by presenting plans on how they can build a championship team around them and on benefits they can reap off the court. And if it takes doing some publicity stunts, so be it.

In fact today, right across the street from Madison Square Garden, the home of the Knicks, stands a brand new billboard with a picture of Prokhorov, the Nets owner, and music superstar Jay-Z, a part owner of the Nets and a friend of LeBron’s. It’s titled “The Blueprint for Greatness.”

As the chase for the biggest stars begins, in more ways than one, money is no object.

Follow the LeBron James Watch at SI.com.

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Filed under: Sports
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Ricky Bobby

    You're just looking at basketball salary, not endorsement salary. New York/New Jersey might be higher.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Elfus

    I just saw this on you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8qGoexyTt8

    I am an Orlando Fan but I could not agree more Houston would be Immortal and So would Lebron as a team.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Another Bill

    Like professional wrestling, the NBA is FIXED.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. psucla

    Knicks get Lebron. Lebron buys MSG stock with money. Stock soars. Economy and market crashes.Wall Street and dervative crooks strike again. Lebron is broke.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. paul

    wow these athletes have it rough...whats the difference between 95 mill over 5 years versus 126 over 6 years..oh my, the humanity..how will he ever be able to feed himself.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Myhouse

    It is so funny to read all these LOOSERS call someone else a LOOSER, when they only make about $12-15 an hour. I would never part my lips to call someone else a looser, when he or she has a job they enjoy and they make millions of dollars doing it. Look in the mirror LOOSERS next time you make that statement!!!

    July 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. James

    I agree with all the rumors. The Agent that signs with Houston will make the best decision in the history of the NBA career wise. Who needs a salary cap when you will be able to beat LA for the next ten years. Besides Elfus, your right Earth Quest theme park will rival LA and Orlando.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. psucla

    Nice spelling. looser = Tiger's woman. Loser = Tiger.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Spencer

    I'm tired of ESPN's "Courting the King". The guy has spent years on one of the best teams in the NBA with one of the best active coaches in the NBA, a great fan base, and he is arguably one of the best in the NBA, if not the best, and he doesn't have a ring. He wants more money and a better team, but before he can get that money, I think he needs to earn a ring first. He is already one of the highest paid players in HISTORY! It's time people realize that Lebron is all about the money, and all about the hype and publicity. "Show me the money!"

    & One last thing... there is only ONE king, and I'll promise you, it's not Lebron James.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. J

    Um good article cnn, "$96 million over FIVE years" as opposed to "$125.5 million over SIX years", so just to let you know, cnn, the reason he is "making about $30 million more if he stays with his current team" is because he is playing 6-5=1 more year................

    July 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. James

    Lets face it, billionaires and wooing is not going to get Lebron where he wants to be. The only team in the NE that is able to give Lebron the future he wants is the Celtics and it is not going to happen. A power trio never works because to much ego’s on one team kills it. I am a Magic fan, but I know that the only place in the league that Lebron will become the person he wants to be is in Houston. Yes Houston Rockets. This is the team that Lebron can rise above Jordan and Kobe and they both know it. Houston has everything to offer a player like Lebron. I have to say it. If money is not a #1 issue and you want to become the all time best Lebron. James, shock the world and go to Houston. Houston is the next LA!-not a fan yet, but Houston is a team you will change the world with and Houston is already on stage to become the Best City in the US in the next 5 years with the economy there, Earth Quest theme parks, Lakewood Church, The Toyota Center, and places like Houston Galleria® and Kingwood. Your choice Labron. Make it the right one, its your future. Anywhere else is going to end up a Charles Barkley career. The agent that goes to Houston goes to the future.

    July 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
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