Just who is LeBron James?
Eleven seasons, four league MVPs and at one point back-to-back titles, you still find yourself wondering just that about the world’s most recognizable hoopster. That particularly holds true in the wake of James’ Friday announcement that he’s headed back to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers after just four seasons of basking in the glow of being the main cog in the Miami Heat’s revolutionary Big 3 lineup of himself, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
While in South Beach, James adroitly answered all the questions that once seemed to dog him about his heart and resolve, though the way he leaves now makes those about his sense of loyalty and devotion just as pronounced.
“I’m coming home,” James wrote in a piece he penned for SI.com heralding his decision. The question now seems just what does “home” mean in the mind of the self-anointed Chosen One?
James bolted his hometown Cavaliers four years ago to join Wade in South Beach and to win the titles he and his hometown team were never able to earn together. And now he’s leaving Wade to go back there because all the losing they’ve done since he left has allowed them to assemble a collection of young talent he’s convinced gives him his best chance of building on his Larry O’Brien trophy count.
Talk about winning at all cost, or at least aiming to. Wade and Bosh both left a combined $40-plus million in guaranteed money on the table to opt out of deals with the Heat earlier this month, presumably because they felt the Big 3 were committed to building on the “brotherhood” they forged four seasons ago.
And now LeBron James has turned his back on it all. Depending on what Wade and Bosh now to decide to do, the Heat have just four players under guaranteed contract for next season.
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” James told SI.com in a first-person essay. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now. The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys,” James said. “I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished.”
Is it merely coincidence that James now realizes all this when it seems most convenient, most opportunistic for himself? Even with James, the Heat stood to be hard pressed to be who they’ve been over the last four seasons. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s roster already includes such new jacks as Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett.
There’s even talk of adding Kevin Love to the mix, clearly making the Cavs’ a franchise on the rise and James apparently all the more eager at placing himself at the center of it all by again “going home.”
James later added “before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. 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.”
And it took LeBron James going to South Beach, teaming with Dwyane Wade to win his only two titles to internalize all this?