He meant every word.
When LeBron James wrote that heartfelt essay on Sports Illustrated, it proved to me, and everyone out there, that he was ready to come home. The essay showed me that he was more ready to come home than he was to depart to Miami back in 2010. That year, when he sat on stage at that Boys and Girls Club, he handled everything wrong. “The Decision” followed by “The Departure” tarnished everything he did prior to that evening on stage.
The entire NBA universe turned LeBron into a WWE heel, the bad guy.
No matter what he did, how many points he scored, how many games he won, how many MVP awards he accumulated, there was always still that thought in the back of everyone’s mind. “Yeah, whatever, He’s still a sellout who had to join up with two other All-Stars just to win.” Rather than all of the amazing things he would do on the court, and the legacy he was creating every night, most people thought of his decision before anything. He couldn’t win.
Until now, that is.
When LeBron announced he was returning to Cleveland, it obviously excited the city, as well as the NBA as a whole. It was like Simba returning to Pride Rock in the Lion King, like Aragorn rightfully claiming his throne in Lord of the Rings. But it was the way he did it that made his return so special, so right. LeBron didn’t build it up himself like he did back in 2010. He sat back, planted his seed and let his agent and practically everyone else do the talking. He said nothing. He did nothing. Instead, he made the most noise with his pen, writing that classy essay, releasing it to the public when no one was ready, and ultimately causing a social media frenzy. James said all of the right things in his essay. He wants to win as many titles as possible, sure. And he wants to help raise the game of the young studs on this Cavaliers roster such as Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins. But, as LeBron said himself, this move is about more than just basketball.
It wasn’t four years ago.
James never truly wanted to leave Cleveland, after all. He tried to recruit players to join him in 2010, in attempts to remain with the Cavs. No one budged, and LeBron had to leave if he wanted to win titles. But fast forward to 2014 and this is about him doing what he needs to. Bringing leadership to Northeast Ohio, making an impact with his presence and, along the way, accepting the challenge. The challenge to bring the city of Cleveland their first sports title in 50 years. That’s what makes this story so legendary. The city of Cleveland at war with all 29 other teams, enduring countless struggles. The King, making his valiant return home, potentially leading them to victory. But he also wants to prove to everyone that he truly is one of the best players of all time, and he can win without a Big Three. He’s accepting this challenge for himself, for his legacy, but most importantly, the city of Cleveland.
That’s the best part. This is about uniting a city that has seen it’s fair share of struggle. He’s the hero now. I mean, just look what he’s done for the city without even playing a single game yet. Fans are bringing out their old LeBron jerseys, stores are filled with LeBron signs and strangers are passing by honking horns and exchanging waves.
And while many didn’t realize it because he “left”, LeBron truly never did. He constantly checked in on the foundation he started for the kids, promising to always be there. He worked out at his old high school, St.Vincent-St.Mary during the offseason. And now, with the essay and the words he spoke, I think people realize that perhaps when he left for Miami, he became more of an Ohio native. Returns to Akron were even more special, the foundation for hundreds of third-graders grew more dear to him and each time he returned home, it had that much bigger of an impact.
Sure, no one around Cleveland will ever forget 2010. They’ll never forget when their hero abandoned them. It hurt, and I get it. But it’ll be a lot more difficult for people to forget not just the fact that he returned home, but the way he returned. With class, with sincerity, with love. They will never, ever forget it, only building to LeBron’s legacy.
LeBron may have left the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he never left Ohio. And he never will.