First off, the money. The final year is a player option. The team believed that they could get Leonard to sign long-term after the 2018-19 season.
The Philadelphia 76ers, whose young star Ben Simmons has the same agent as James, were also in the hunt with James, hoping to build a potential triple threat alongside the Australian and Cameroon forward Joel Embiid.
By declining his option, James positioned himself to be able to choose where he'll play next, and Cleveland, just up the road from his home near Akron, remains a strong possibility.
James was on a plane that flew into Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles on Saturday, a source told ESPN. It's notable that the decision to join Los Angeles was announced through the Klutch Sports website.
Lakers great Kobe Bryant showed support for James' decision in a tweet, saying "Welcome to the family".
According to ESPN, James doesn't have a meeting scheduled with the Cavaliers after opting out of his contract on Friday. He had formed a terrific partnership with Anfernee Hardaway and had already led the Orlando Magic to one finals appearance, and in his final season with that team took them to the Eastern Conference finals.
James helped Cleveland to their first National Basketball Association title in 2016, as they overturned a 3-1 deficit in the National Basketball Association finals to beat Golden State.
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By the end of the regular season, James extended that streak to 873 straight games.
The ball still may be in Cleveland's court.
"Kawhi Leonard to miss birthday party (return from injury management)", one fan said in relation to this past season's Spurs injury report.
And unlike eight years ago when he ripped James for leaving, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert thanked him.
The Clippers are reportedly one of the five teams to make an offer to San Antonio for Leonard. The disgruntled Spurs star wants to join LeBron in LA, but there's one problem: he has no control over his future destination.
But the 33-year-old has interests beyond basketball and the massive Los Angeles market would give him a bigger stage and platform.
It's a comical situation on social media, but the Spurs still have to decide what to do with Leonard, whether it's a trade or keeping him on the roster; They can do this until February 2019, otherwise there's the risk of losing him in next summer's free-agent period.