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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

LeBron James to become free agent and is expected to leave Cleveland - reports

Cavaliers superstar has played in the NBA Finals eight consecutive years, but he and his team were swept by the Warriors this season 

LeBron James, left, will be tasked with leading the LA Lakers to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo
LeBron James, left, will be tasked with leading the LA Lakers to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

LeBron James is opting out of the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and officially becoming an unrestricted free agent, according to multiple reports on Friday morning.

James, 33, would have made $35.6 million (Dh130.7m) in the 2018-19 season had he exercised his option with the Cavs. According to ESPN, James could still fetch as much as $207m over five years from the Cavaliers, while other teams can offer a max of $152m over four years.

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James had until Friday at midnight ET (8am UAE) to opt out of the final year of his existing deal with the Cavaliers. He could still re-sign with Cleveland, although the strong current from national media is James appears ready to move again.

In 2014, he returned to the Cavaliers after an in-person meeting with team owner Dan Gilbert. Their relationship was never a great one, but has splintered in recent years.

In 2010, James bolted Cleveland in a nationally televised announcement "The Decision," infamously declaring he was taking his "talents to South Beach" and joining the Miami Heat. Before he joined the Heat, James had meetings with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers, where team representatives pitched the All-Star with personalized presentations and marketing plans.

Free agency officially opens up on Sunday at 12.01am ET.

James has played in the NBA Finals eight consecutive years, but he and the Cavs were swept this season by the Golden State Warriors.

ESPN reported the number of teams James and his representatives, Rich Paul and Mark Termini, could be interested in as free agents will be small.

Speculation centers around contenders, including the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics, but James shed no light on his plans in multiple interviews broaching the topic.