LeBron James has decided to become a free agent rather than exercising his $35.6 million option to stay under his current contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for one more year, according to two people familiar with the decision.
James’s agent, Rich Paul, notified the Cavaliers of the decision on Friday morning, according to the people, who were not authorized to discuss the decision publicly. Cleveland.com first reported James’s intentions.
James had until Friday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern to decide whether to play out the final year of his current contract, which would have delayed his free agency by one year. Now he will be free to sign with any team — and rejoining the Cavaliers is a possibility.
His third career trip to the open market begins Sunday at 12:01 a.m. Eastern. The Los Angeles Lakers are widely regarded as the Cavaliers’ main competition to lure him away from his home-state team.
The Cavaliers rank as a strong contender to keep James, who made it clear after Cleveland’s N.B.A. finals defeat to the Golden State Warriors that family considerations will be a bigger factor in his next move than they ever have previously.
James, his wife, Savannah, and their three children maintain homes in Northeast Ohio and Los Angeles, which has helped establish the Lakers and the Cavaliers as the most likely destinations for the four-time most valuable player, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
July 6 is the first day teams are allowed to officially execute new contracts after a leaguewide moratorium is lifted. But teams and free agents can reach oral agreements on new deals once free agency begins.
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