The decision has been made.
LeBron James told Sports Illustrated he’s coming home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. Just as we all read while refreshing LeBronJames.com, he’s just a kid from Akron, and now he’s on his way back — and for reasons bigger than basketball.
James wrote this for SI:
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. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.
The last memories of James in Cleveland was him tearing off the Cavaliers jersey after being bounced out of the 2010 playoffs against the Boston Celtics, immediately inserting doubts in the minds of Cleveland fans that he may decide not to return to the team when he hit free agency later that summer.
Then “The Decision” happened. On national television James announced “he was taking his talents to South Beach,” enraging Cavs fans to light James’ jersey in flames and refer to him as a traitor.
James went from one of the most beloved sports figures ever to one of the most hated. Not only did the people of Ohio despise him, both those in New York and Chicago who wanted him to wear a Knicks or Bulls jersey did too, purely out of jealousy and angst.
In his first season in Miami, along with fellow All-Stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the Heat made it all the way to the NBA Finals only to be defeated by the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks. It felt as if everyone in the NBA not located in the state of Florida was in the Mavericks’ corner.
A year later, though, James would finally get to taste championship lore.
James led Miami to the top of the NBA and cruised through the playoffs and The Finals against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, finally capturing his first ring. The following season, he did the same in dramatic fashion against the San Antonio Spurs, a truly classic NBA Finals, which resulted in not one, but two rings now in his collection.
This past season, though, James was reminded of his former Cavaliers teams when he single-handedly led the Heat into the NBA Finals, but this time feeling the taste of defeat. He received no help from Wade or Bosh, and, despite his super-human efforts, could not get past the better Spurs team.
Now LeBron has immersed himself back in the good faith of the people of Cleveland, hoping to deliver that all-too-coveted NBA championship to the Cavaliers. Not one, not two, but maybe his third title will come alongside Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and Anthony Bennett.
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go.
James held the NBA and the sports world hostage over the past few weeks as he decided The Decision Part 2.0. But in the end, a driven and loyal James chose to return where his career started, with not only winning but family, friends, and an overall mission in mind.