Why it makes sense: If the Heat win a third straight title, it’d be almost impossible for LeBron to leave. It would make no sense for him to pass on a chance at leading only the second team ever to a four-peat (the Celtics won eight in a row from 1958-1966!), something even Michael Jordan never did. Even if the Heat doesn’t win the 2014 title, Miami will surely be one of the final teams in the hunt and is still set up to be a contender for the next several years. Then there are the financial benefits. If LeBron stays with the Heat, he can sign a longer deal (five years as opposed to four) for more money (roughly $30 million). It's hard to imagine anyone turning down that kind of guaranteed cash, although Dwight Howard did just that this summer. Then there's the fact that Florida has no state income tax, which could save LeBron close to a million dollars a year. Even putting the money aside - do you know anyone who would willingly move from Miami?
Why it doesn’t: Despite winning two championships in a row, there are concerns for the Heat going forward. Chris Bosh was largely inconsistent throughout the 2013 postseason and Dwyane Wade’s declining health is a constant concern. LeBron led the Heat to at least two titles, but if winning more and more championships is his goal, then he might have a better opportunity joining a younger squad.
Chance of it happening: 65%. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's pretty much unheard of for a star player to walk away from a team that's won multiple championships. Unless everything completely falls apart next season for the Heat, it's hard to envision LeBron leaving his teammates, who also happen to be some of his best friends, behind.
Why it makes sense: Sure, LeBron stuck a knife in the back of Cleveland fans with The Decision, but he maintains his home in Akron and still considers Ohio to be his home. There have been constant rumblings that LeBron is set on returning to the Cavs once his current deal expires and it’s possible that Cleveland will actually have the best of these rosters on paper. LeBron could team up with one of the league’s up-and-coming superstars, Kyrie Irving, and if Andrew Bynum can stay healthy, then Cleveland could have a Big Three all in their prime that actually make sense positionally. If any of the Cavs’ other recent top picks (Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, or Dion Waiters) pan out, then LeBron could be joining a potential dynasty.
Why it doesn’t: Some Cleveland fans would quickly forget the past if they were presented with the chance at a dynasty, but others will never, ever forgive LeBron. Does the greatest player on the planet really want to play in what could be a very hostile home environment? LeBron loves to play up his loyalty to his home state, but mending these burned bridges could be a challenge, at least for the first year.
Chance of it happening: 20%. It seems unlikely that LeBron would leave beautiful Miami, his Heat teammates, and about $30 million behind, but if there's one thing that could draw him away from all that, it's the allure of playing in his hometown. If LeBron could bring a title to Cleveland, a city that hasn't won a major sports championship since 1964, perhaps fans would forgive him and he could finally put the first messy Decision behind him.
Los Angeles Lakers
Why it makes sense: On the court, it really doesn't - the Lakers currently only have two players signed through 2015 - Steve Nash and Robert Sacre. But playing in Los Angeles would give LeBron the chance to build his brand like nowhere else. Joining the Lakers would also give LeBron the chance to follow in the footsteps of NBA legends like James Worthy, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant for perhaps the league's most storied franchise.
Why it doesn’t: Even though Kobe is coming off a major injury and is already well past his prime, it's difficult to imagine him and LeBron sharing touches. Fitting LeBron under the salary cap given Kobe's hesitation to take a paycut could also be a challenge. But most importantly, the Lakers could be lottery bound this season and will probably be forced to rebuild. LeBron is trying to win titles, so why would he want to be a part of that?
Chance of it happening: 10%. Los Angeles has a lot to offer LeBron off the court, but otherwise this doesn't make much sense. The only reason we're giving it a chance at all is because the Lakers usually get what they want.
New York Knicks
Why it makes sense: Knicks fans have already been down this road once before. During the summer of 2010 there were plenty of rumors swirling that LeBron would end up in New York and it seemed like the entire city was anticipating his arrival. Obviously LeBron chose to go in a totally different direction, so why would he make the move to the Big Apple this time around? The short answer: to save basketball in New York. The Knicks have struggled over the last decade - they haven't made it past the second round of the playoffs in 13 years. New York is often referred to as the Mecca of basketball, and if LeBron was able to bring a championship to New York, he would be a hero in arguably the biggest basketball city in the world.
Why it doesn’t: The problem with this plan is that the Knicks won't have the cap space in 2014 to sign LeBron, unless he wants to play for about $3 million a year. So for this to be realistic, LeBron would have to opt-in to his contract with the Heat for one more season, then wait until 2015 to make his move to New York. This seems unlikely, given that most players of LeBron's stature opt out of their contracts as soon as possible to secure a four- or five-year extension. The other obstacle is Carmelo Anthony. If he stays with New York - and there are already reports that the Knicks will let 'Melo pick his teammates in the summer of 2015 - it's hard to envision him sharing the court with LeBron. If 'Melo leaves? Well, anything is possible.
Chance of it happening: Pretty slim, probably about 5%. It seems unlikely that LeBron would wait until 2015 for his next big payday, unless he was sure he was signing with the Knicks. And if he didn't do it the first time he had the chance, why would he now?