CLEVELAND, Nov 10 – Winning comes first for LeBron James. Money ranks a close second. But the NBA club that expects the superstar to play for it next season had better be prepared to offer both.That was the message the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player had Monday after some weekend speculation that he might be willing to settle for less than the maximum amount of money he could make under NBA rules.
"Let’s get this clear," James said. "I said the max contract doesn’t mean more than winning.
"I didn’t say, ‘I don’t need a max contract’ or ‘I’m not going to get a max contract.’ All I’m saying is that winning is more important to me than money at the end of the day."
That has been the expected dynamic all along for James, who can opt out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers after the current season, which would open the door for every team in the league to make a run at "King James".
Before last Friday’s game at New York, James said "a max deal" did not really matter to him.
New York has long been one of James’s favorite places to play and he scored 33 points in Cleveland’s 100-91 victory over the Knicks, who have gutted their roster expenses for two seasons to make a financial run at the king’s ransom it would take to entice him.
That, however, has not led to success on the court, which is also one of the things James values.
Clubs also realize that landing James could inspire other players to come and play for less money for the chance to play on a championship squad, a goal James desperately wants to achieve in his already much-lauded career.