Our most recent take on James was last summer, after the Heat won their second consecutive NBA championship. We looked at the odds of James catching up to Michael Jordan’s six championship wins, the most in the salary-cap era (since 1984-85). We put the odds of the Heat winning the 2014 championship at about 33 percent, with the chances getting lower each subsequent year. So given this year’s loss, James might be making a smart move with his current opt-out. But given James’s win shares, we put his odds at winning a championship — regardless of the team — at about 20 or 25 percent. We were partially right — Wade and Bosh did show solidarity in a move to Miami. But we were wrong in predicting James’s decision. In a follow-up piece, we further evaluated the merits of James joining the Heat. There was a major hit to his popularity because of the way he announced the decision and because of Miami’s relatively small fan base. We argued this could have reduced his earning potential by $150 million. We conceded that “James may able to redeem himself through athletic success,” which turned out to be the case: He made $42 million from endorsements in 2013, which dwarfs the $28 million he made in 2009 when he was with Cleveland. The world is abuzz with the news that LeBron James is opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat. There’s plenty of speculation about what this means and where he might decide to go, if anywhere, but we thought it might be interesting to take a look at our own history of guessing James’s future. Here’s a roundup of predictions that we’ve made, and how accurate they turned out to be:The last time James opted out of his contract was in 2010, when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed with the Miami Heat, joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh there. Before he announced that decision, we analyzed his value as a player, as well as the different options available to him, and tried to determine the best route for him to take with regard to his personal brand. We decided he’d be best off trying to both win a championship and do so in a way that would be perceived as overcoming a challenge. We doubted that “forming a ‘dream team’ with Wade and Bosh in Miami would do that much for him,” so it was most likely that he would stay with Cleveland or join the Knicks, while Wade and Bosh would stick together in either Chicago or Miami.
Kevin Durant held back LeBron James.Miami’s LeBron James was not bad. He was good most of the game, in fact. But Kevin Durant was better, much better, all game long. The difference between the two superstar players helped Oklahoma City overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to earn a 105-94 victory.The Thunder have a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 Thursday back in Oklahoma City. And it was Durant most responsible for OKC’s enviable position. He scored 17 of his 36 points in the final period on an dizzying array of shots. James had seven of his 30 when the game was decided. To wit: He had only one basket over the first 8:15 of the fourth.James averaged just three points in the fourth quarters of the Heat’s six-game loss to Dallas last year, taking almost all the heat for Miami’s Finals failure. He was good in this one, Durant was just better.And when fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” late in the game, they weren’t talking about James, the guy who won the regular-season award.They meant Durant, who is in a race with James for his first ring — and maybe the title of best player in the world is on the line, too.But first thing’s first. The game matters most, and James needs more help. Russell Westbrook shot just 10 of 24, but after halftime he and Durant outsored the entire Miami team 41-40. He finished with 27 points, eight rebounds 11 assists and just two turnovers. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade had 19 points but shot just 7-of-19 for the Heat, while Shane Battier provided some rare offense by scoring 17 points, his high this postseason.Turning to a small lineup late in the third quarter, the Thunder improved to 9-0 at home in the postseason. Defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha helped defend James during the Thunder’s comeback, relieving Durant of the burden so he could focus on his scoring.A couple of key stats were significant. One, OKC outscored the Heat 24-4 on fastbreak points. Not good, especially considering how effective Miami has been on the break. The second stat is this: The Thunder scored 56 points in the paint. Really not good.