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updated: 6/24/2014 9:25 PM

Most powerful man in sports will stay in Miami

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  • Whatever LeBron James wants in Miami, LeBron James will get in Miami. The Heat really has no other choice but to make King James happy.

    Whatever LeBron James wants in Miami, LeBron James will get in Miami. The Heat really has no other choice but to make King James happy.
    Associated Press


It's good to be great, it's even better to be King, and right now it's best to be King James.

LeBron James that is.

The No. 1 basketball player on the planet announced Tuesday his intentions to opt out of his Miami Heat contract.

This made Carmelo Anthony opting out of his Knicks' contract a day earlier seem as trivial as me declaring for the NBA draft.

Don't get too excited, Bulls fans. James isn't coming to Chicago or going anywhere else. The overwhelming expectation is that he'll stay in Miami.

At least that's what I believe and what the latest Las Vegas odds indicate.

The real significance of the procedural move is that soon LeBron James will be acknowledged as the most powerful man in sports, or at least the most powerful athlete.

As a free agent on July 1, James will have the NBA at his mercy. Just the threat that he can go where he wants and on his terms ensures that.

James can command a maximum salary from the team of his choosing but more likely will stay where he is for less money and more authority.

The Heat will bow to every James demand because they have no other choice. After all he's not just the player, he's the man; he's not just the man, he's the King.

In addition to rendering Anthony table scraps, James has rendered Heat president Pat Riley his personal prop.

The Heat belongs to James now. The team might as well be called the Miami LeBrons.

Riley is powerful in his own right and respected as a basketball mind. Yet he will shrink in any room that he shares with James. As a friend of mine in South Florida put it Tuesday, Riley has to give James carte blanche to redo the Miami roster.

The Heat lost to the Spurs earlier this month and looked bad doing so. Change clearly is necessary in Miami, and James will execute the changing.

Riley has to say to James, "Tell me how much money in salary you'll leave on the table for me to work with and tell me the players you want me to bring in and I'll go fetch them for you."

In other words, Riley essentially becomes James' leg man. He has no choice. He can't afford to lose James. King trumps President. If Riley blinks, James bolts.

Now that's power. The last time James was a free agent four years ago, I suggested that they offer him the opportunity to bring along whomever he wanted as coach or even to coach the team himself.

Some naive Bulls fans were outraged at that suggestion. Why? Because Michael Jordan never had that kind of power, that's why.

Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf didn't have to allow Jordan to run the Bulls. He didn't even have to let him make personnel moves despite all the revenue and titles His Royal Airness generated for the franchise.

In this era, however, Reinsdorf would defer to Jordan. He would have to. The world of sports, the economics of sports and the reality of sports are all different today.

If LeBron James is secure enough to opt out of a contract that guaranteed him $42.7 million over the next two seasons, Riley has to know that the King is secure enough to leave Miami and then return to beat the Heat.

Four years ago, James took his talents to South Beach and four years later he can take them to even Sacramento or Minnesota on a whim if he wants.

The Heat can't let that happen. The NBA always has been a players' league. It still is, but now it's really a player's league.

That player is LeBron James, who possesses the leverage of his basketball superiority.

Boy, is it ever good to be the most powerful athlete in sports.

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