While the summer of 2014 is on the minds of many basketball fans, LeBron James said he hasn't even given it a thought. The Miami Heat superstar, who could headline next year's bumper crop of free agents, said at this point he doesn't know what he's going to do.
"I have absolutely no idea," James recently told ESPN.com. "I would love to spend the rest of my career in Miami with this great team and great organization as we continue to compete for championships. That's ideal. But we don't know what may happen from now to the end of the season. That's the nature of the business. It's the nature of not knowing what tomorrow brings.
"I mean, as a kid, I never thought the Bulls would break up. Never. If you'd of told me as a kid that [Michael] Jordan and [Scottie] Pippen wouldn't play together for the rest of their lives, I'd have looked at you crazy. And Phil Jackson wouldn't be the coach? I'd have looked at you crazy. But sometimes the nature of the business doesn't allow things to happen like you would want them to. But we'll see."
As James and the Heat go for their third straight championship this season, the question of whether James will opt out of his contract and become a free agent in July 2014 will hover over their pursuit. Several other superstars, including New York's Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and James' Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, also could be on the market. But James is by far the biggest prize of them all.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, the hometown team the Akron, Ohio, native famously left in 2010, are believed to be the Heat's stiffest competition when it comes to acquiring him in 2014. The Lakers, who could have enough salary cap room to sign two max free agents next summer, are viewed as a long-shot competitor for his services.
James understands he'll be asked about his potential free agency nearly every time he enters an opposing arena, but he said he'll keep his focus on leading the Heat to another title.
"I owe it to myself, I owe it my teammates and I owe it to the Miami Heat to stay focused," he said. "As a leader, I'm not even going to let that side of the business get me unfocused on what I'm trying to do and that's trying to win another championship.
"I'm going to try to [stop the discussion about free agency], but you always have reporters who are going to always bring it up. They're going to change the question and make it sound like something else. But it will get to a point, if I continue to hear it, where I will say, 'Hey guys, I've answered the question and out of respect, let's talk about this after the season."'
Pat Riley, the Heat president whose uncanny recruiting pitch landed James in 2010, would prefer his superstar make that statement sooner rather than later.
"Our stance is the same we had with Wade in 2010, that we're just going to play the season and not let that hang over our heads and become a distraction just because the media wants to get an answer on it every day," Riley told ESPN.com. "I don't know LeBron's stance. He'll probably say one time, 'I'll talk about it next year.' We haven't discussed it yet, but we will. I'll tell him the main thing is to make sure the main thing remains the main thing. And the main thing is to win the championship."