The King is coming home.
This move wasn’t about basketball. It wasn’t about the roster or the management in Cleveland or Miami. This was about unfinished business.
LeBron’s legacy in Miami was cemented. He left Cleveland to join a star-studded cast and did exactly what we all knew he would do. Four years, four championship appearances, two titles, two MVP’s. No one can ever take these years from James. He blossomed into a seasoned veteran, the best player on the planet. In all honesty, there was nothing left for him to accomplish there.
LeBron has his championships, he has his MVP’s, he has his millions of dollars and the glorified life that every kid dreams of. The only thing that has eluded him his entire career is winning a title for his hometown team, the city that hasn’t seen a championship since 1964. We all know the feeling, or have thought about what winning a title for the hometown team would be like. And for those who haven’t, imagine winning the lottery and multiply that by infinity. Though, even that doesn’t do it justice. Home is home, and that’s all there is to it.
If you haven’t had the chance to read The King’s letter on SI.com, I strongly suggest you give it a glance. I challenge you not to get chills up and down your spine reading it. It is simply amazing; there are no other words to describe it.
In his own words, “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when.”
Well now is the time and what a perfect time it is. Since leaving Cleveland in 2010, the Cavaliers have had the worst winning percentage in the NBA. A lowly 97-215 record over that span. Though, LeBron leaving was almost a blessing in disguise for the Cavaliers. Because of those tumultuous seasons the Cavs have stockpiled talent: Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, the list goes on. LeBron’s biggest qualm about Cleveland was that while playing there management was unable to get quality players around him to aide his quest for a ring. Now he has that and more.
Early on in his career in Cleveland, no matter what earth-shattering dunk or feat of athleticism LeBron dazzled fans with, he was always
compared to Michael Jordan. He was the “chosen one”, the heir apparent to Michael. The greatest player anyone had ever seen and will ever see. But let me say this, LeBron James isn’t Michael Jordan. He never will be. However, he is the Jordan of our era and when all is said and done our generation will look back on LeBron the way the generation that preceded us looks back on Jordan. LeBron James is not the greatest player to ever live, simply because he was not the first.
I believe much of LeBron’s departure from Cleveland and arrival in Miami in 2010 had to deal with such comparisons. It was the elephant in the room; in order to be the greatest and be on par with Michael, LeBron had to get his rings. He even said it himself in his letter to SI, “When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two.”
But this return to Cleveland has a different feel. It’s not about the rings, he has those now. He’s not seeking six championships, the elusive number which Michael Jordan set the bar with. He’s no longer chasing Jordan’s legacy, which has been a monkey on his back since the day he was drafted no. 1 overall in 2003. He’s creating his own legacy, one that will hopefully take flight by bringing a title to Cleveland.
Ten years from now when we look back on LeBron’s career, Miami will represent a turning point. A point in time that allowed him to mature and become a champion, but most importantly learn HOW to be a champion. He learned from a franchise “that had been where [he] wanted to go.” One that had the likes of Pat Riley, and his 9 championship rings, at the helm.
In Cleveland, LeBron was the unequivocal leader, not because he had the qualifications to be that, but because he was the best player on the court at all times. And while that still rings true, Miami allowed him to understand that being the best doesn’t necessarily make you a leader.
The Cavs represent a whole new challenge to the King. A brand new, relatively unknown head coach, an incredibly young roster, a first time general manager, and let’s not forget an owner who publicly bashed LeBron a mere four years ago. He may not win a title in his first few years in Cleveland, though now he has the pedigree to do so. And that’s all that matters.
Of course, LeBron will draw criticism from every corner of the world for this decision. There will be those who say he turned his back on Miami because they lost. There will be those who say he’s a title chaser. But at the end of the day can you really fault a man for wanting to win a title for his hometown?
LeBron’s return is bigger than basketball. LeBron embodies the city of Cleveland. As a man whose entire family is from Ohio I know this to be true. It is a blue-collar town, and at his base, he is a blue-collar guy. The impact on the city of Cleveland is yet to be seen. But one thing is certain; Cleveland’s favorite son is back and he is forgiven. Cleveland gave LeBron honor and distinction, now it is his turn to return the favor. One can only imagine how the people of Cleveland will feel if he delivers a title.
I can’t think of any other way to end other than by letting the King do so himself. And with that LeBron James:
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”