LeBron James' agent, Rich Paul, has informed the Miami Heat of his client's decision to exercise the early termination option on his contract and become a free agent on July 1.
Paul confirmed the decision via text message to USA TODAY Sports.
While James may ultimately return to Miami on a new deal, the pressure is now squarely on Heat president Pat Riley to win the recruiting war for James' services again like he did in the summer of 2010.
"I was informed this morning of his intentions," Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. "We fully expected LeBron to opt-out and exercise his free agent rights, so this does not come as a surprise. As I said at the press conference last week, players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options.
"The last four seasons have been historic and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra have led the Miami Heat to one of the most unprecedented runs in the history of the NBA. We look forward to sitting down with LeBron and his representatives and talking about our future together. At the moment, we are preparing for the opportunities in the Draft and Free Agency as we continue with our goal of winning NBA Championships."
James was set to earn $20.5 million next season on the contract that could have gone through 2016 (player option worth $22.1 million).
GOOD DECISION: Why LeBron was smart to opt out of Heat contract
Opting out doesn't mean James will necessarily leave the Heat, but it allows him to explore opportunities.
ESPN first reported the news.
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