With a season done and a championship won, LeBron James offered encouraging news for Heat fans during his season-ending news conference on Tuesday, saying the ultimate goal would be to ride it out long-term in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But he stopped short of saying he definitely would remain with the Heat beyond next summer, when he, Wade and Bosh could exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts.
Asked if something unexpected would have to happen for James to want to leave the Heat next summer, he said: "I don't know. I'm not really thinking about that right now. Our focus is how we're going to get better this year with all these other teams getting better, to keep that trophy here."
But when asked whether he has thought of sticking it out with Wade, Bosh, team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra for years to come, he said: "That's the goal. That's the ultimate finish. We all hope that can happen, obviously, to be able to have success with two guys and with Riles and Spo.
"This is what we came here for. That would be the ultimate. But I don't know. Life changes, things happen, and you have to be prepared for that. But this is what we all want to be here for. And that's to be able to compete for a championship every year. If we can do that, then it would be awesome."
He said the prospect of another free agent decision next summer will not weigh on him and he won't think about it until "it comes up. It won't roll around in my mind. It can't get worse than the season before I became a free agent in 2010.
"What I'm prepared for is to come back a better player and be the leader of this team and try to go for a three-peat. I'm going to come back a better player because I owe it to my teammates."