LeBron James is a Cleveland Cavalier.
7/11 12:20 pm Sports Illustrated reports LeBron James is returning to Cleveland.
The World waited with baited breath as to where the basketball phenom would play next. James penned an essay as told to writer Lee Jenkins in Sports Illustrated that discussed his undying love for Northeast Ohio. “Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio,” said James.
Drafted with the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, James shed light on his decision to rejoin his former team:
“It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
Four years ago, LeBron James uttered 14 dreaded words that broke the hearts of fans in Cleveland: “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
Cleveland has not been the same since James’ departure. A city that had not won a championship in major professional sports since the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Championship in 1964, James was the city’s hope. Those hopes vanished when James bolted for Miami and formed a super team with fellow 2003 draftees, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Led by Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat made four NBA Finals appearances—winning two NBA Finals.
Cavaliers team owner, Dan Gilbert, vented his own frustration writing a scathing letter where he scolded James by calling him a “Self-proclaimed King.” He even compared James to Benedict Arnold and assured Cavalier fans that Cleveland would win a championship before James would. A group of former fans even burned James’ jersey in effigy after his announcement.
Time does heal old wounds and Mother Nature takes its course too. The Miami Heat, are not the team that they once were when James showboated and vowed to bring eight championships to South Beach.
The Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in this year’s NBA Finals and many questioned the durability of the team. James was the most consistent on the Heat and Chris Bosh was effective. But Dwyane Wade sat out for much of the Heat’s back-to-back games during the 2013-14 season.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Cavaliers have been building through the NBA Draft and via free agency the last four years. The Cavs drafted Kyrie Irving out of Duke in the 2011 NBA Draft. Last week, Irving signed a five year, $95 million contract extension with the Cavs. Cleveland also drafted Dion Waiters out of Syracuse, Tristan Thompson out of Texas, Anthony Bennett from UNLV and Andrew Wiggins out of Kansas. All of this while continuing to monitor salary cap space.
Despite LeBron leaving Cleveland four years ago, the Cavs wanted him back. Cleveland punctuated their commitment to bring The King back on Wednesday, when they shipped Jarrett Jack to the Brooklyn Nets in a three-team-trade with the Boston Celtics. That trade cleared enough space in Cleveland’s salary cap for James to sign a maximum contract of over $20 million per season.
James signed a two-year, $42.1 million deal with the goal of re-signing with the Cavs before the 2016-17 season when the NBA’s new television deal is expected to create a large jump in value for the maximum contract.
James left Cleveland to bolt for Miami and now returns to the hometown team on his own terms. All in all, experts and lay fans speculated for years that James would one day return. A native of nearby Akron, Ohio, James understands the pain of the Greater Cleveland area not winning a championship. He now returns home with a realistic chance to win one with the Cavaliers.