When Lebron James announced Friday that he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, I wasn’t surprised at all. This was always a part of the plan for James. He was born and raised there. He played high school hoops there and started his NBA career there. He became a superstar there. He was the Dan Marino of the NBA for 7 seasons until he made a decision in July of 2010 that will go down as one of the most polarizing topics in sports history. The Decision. On national television, Lebron said he was taking his talents to South Beach and he did it with a nervousness that was real and apparent. When I saw Albert Pujols make his first appearance as a Los Angeles Angel after he signed a 10(in reality, 20) year deal in December of 2011, he had that same nervous look that Lebron had.
James and Pujols are teaching us in those small moments that they are superstars and human beings at the same time. They have blood running through their veins and their blood pressure can rise like anyone else’s can in a big moment. Their makeup is similar to us but differs when it comes to athletic ability. Sitting on that stage 4 years ago, James couldn’t rely on a deadly jumper or dominating route to the hoop. He said 6 words and everything changed. It was a bad plan with good intentions. No one wants to admit that the Decision raised millions of dollars for The Boys and Girls Club of America. That’s not juicy enough. Everybody was quick to turn Lebron into a villain. Cleveland fans did a 360 and burned jerseys and trashed rooms all over the city and state of Ohio. The streets ran red with Lebron venom that night. To a certain degree, it’s understandable. If Pujols had departed after 7 seasons, which would be in 2008, Cardinals fans would put away their Best Fans in Baseball logo and bring out the bats and flames. There would be jerseys burned but no riots. Cavs fans felt betrayed.
The owner, Dan Gilbert, wrote a hate letter before his plane could land. A letter full of erratic statements such as promising a championship before Lebron could win one in Miami(comedy) and attacking James in a number of ways. I said it then and I will say it now. Dan Gilbert overreacted. He forgot that James made him rich and the Cavaliers a great team. Before Lebron got there, th Cavaliers were a dormant team. A laughing stock. James won 3 MVP’s and took them to the finals. He carried them up a mountain like a giant carries a midget and couldn’t bring home a talent. That weighs on a man’s soul. Failing to win the big one. Ask Marino about that when Super Bowl discussions come around. It’s tough. Gilbert should have been mad and disappointed. He didn’t have to burn a bridge.
Lebron was wrong with the way he left. Raising money was great but yes he could have did it more low key. However, if that is the worst thing people can say about him, let’s stop with the hate. I see a lot of hate for Lebron. What’s there to hate? He is a family man. He doesn’t do drugs. He doesn’t cheat. He doesn’t put himself on the wrong section of the newspaper. He is a role model. He donates millions to charity. He is the face of Cleveland, and that includes his four years in Miami. He is a good guy and a worthy superstar and heir apparent to Jordan only as the face of a sport(sorry Kobe). I run into a lot of hate with NBA fans and I am only a casual one. I don’t watch every game but I appreciate an athlete who can admit he did things wrong and wishes to turn the page, as Lebron did in his letter on Friday. Instead of going on television and announcing his return to Cleveland, Lebron wrote a very good letter. Read it Sports Illustrated. He talked about growing up in Cleveland but really growing up in Miami. He said playing for the Heat was like a teenager going to college and becoming a better man. In the process of enraging a city, Lebron took a few big steps as a person and I can believe that.
He wanted to win the big one and did it twice in Miami. Save me the Big 3 talk. Chris Bosh is overrated and the last two years Dwayne Wade’s lower body has severely deteriorated. James carried them in the 2013 Finals and used a Ray Allen magical three pointer to take back a series. James became a better player in Miami, distributing the ball more often and engaging his teammates. He has always been a great teammate but I think Lebron got even better in Miami. We will see when the first tip goes off this fall.
Lebron made two bad moves. The Decision and the Promise. Wade, Bosh and Lebron blurting out at a pep rally about winning 6 championships. The things you will say when you are convincing a city full of casual sports fans to engage in a sport for a period of time. James has since moved on and made things right.
A month ago, I predicted Lebron would return to the Cavs. The Lakers, Suns, Knicks, and Bulls tried to lure him to their land but he said no. He only has so many deals left in his body. All human athletes break down eventually. Cleveland is a promising team with James coming into the organization at a time of growth. He has every reason to join this party.
Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins at his right and left will help widen James’ talent. The Cavs are a young team in need of a king. This Cleveland team is better built than it was in 2007 and 2008. James has real help and those legs are younger than his. In order to win, James will need that. I think he can win in Cleveland. He got close then. He can win it all now. Just watch.
If he doesn’t win another championship, the story still holds. He returns home and ends his career there. Don’t be fooled by the two year deal. The league is coming into some serious TV rights money in a couple seasons, and James would be a fool to not benefit off that new found surplus of commerce. He will retire a Cavalier.
I said four years ago that he would return because to me, that was always part of the plan. Go off to Miami and team up to win some titles and come back and grow another winner in Cleveland. His family is in Cleveland. His legacy is in Cleveland. His life is there. This story doesn’t have to be sold because it practically sells itself.
Lebron James going home to Cleveland is good for him, basketball and the rest of the league. It levels out the league and brings an excitement back to a quiet town. Gilbert can forgive for a few reasons but one gigantic one. MONEY! James will bring in an even bigger revenue than he did in 2010. He is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Gilbert wanted to make amends for doing something wrong but it wasn’t about him forgiving Lebron. As a twitter pal informed me today, it was about Lebron forgiving him. Owners should know better than to mow green grass because that could be dollar bills that you are trimming.
James going back to the Cavs may get me to watch a few more games. When it comes to sports I don’t particularly care for or love, it’s all about the drama. The stakes. The excitement. Lebron brings that wherever he goes. Soap opera style games. He is a fun player to watch and always brings attention. It doesn’t hurt that he is a pretty good guy too.
Long May You Run, Lebron.